A Delhi court on Monday issued a bailable warrant against Congress leader Shashi Tharoor after he failed to appear in a criminal defamation case filed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Rajiv Babbar against his remarks that an unidentified Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader had compared Prime Minister Narendra Modi to a “scorpion sitting on a Shivling”, PTI reported.

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Naveen Kumar Kashyap also imposed a fine of Rs 500 on the complainant Babbar for not appearing in the matter. The hearing has been scheduled for November 27.

“Neither complainant nor his main counsel is present,” the court said. “An exemption application is moved on behalf of the complainant. The same is vague in nature. It is stated in the application that he is in personal difficulty but what is such ‘difficulty’ is not explained at all in the application.”

The court said it was taking a “lenient view” of Tharoor’s absence and issued bailable warrants against the accused with a sum of Rs 5,000 and a notice to his surety. “The process should be issued within one week,” it added.

Speaking at the Bangalore Literature Festival in October 2018, Tharoor had claimed Modi’s “personality cult” did not sit very well with many people in the RSS. He claimed there was an “extraordinarily striking metaphor” with which an RSS member expressed the organisation’s frustration with its “inability to curb Modi”. He then cited the RSS functionary as saying: “Modi is like a scorpion sitting on a Shivling, you cannot remove him with your hand and you cannot hit it with a chappal either”.

In his complaint, Babbar claimed Tharoor had hurt the sentiments of Shiva devotees. “I am a devotee of Lord Shiva,” he had said. “However, the accused completely disregarded the sentiments of crores of Shiva’s devotees, made the statement which hurt the sentiments of all the Lord Shiva devotees, both in India and outside the country.” The complainant claimed Tharoor’s statement was “intolerable abuse” and and “absolute vilification” of the faith of millions of people.

Tharoor had called the case frivolous. The Congress MP asked why the suit had been filed against him now even though the quote was published in an article six years ago.

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