The Kerala High Court on Monday restricted activist Rehana Fathima from printing, posting or publishing her views on any medium of the media, Bar and Bench reported.
A single judge bench of Justice Sunil Thomas gave the order on a a plea seeking the cancellation of Fathima’s bail in a case from 2018, after she posted a cooking video captioned “Gomatha Ularthu” and repeatedly referred to beef as “gomatha” while narrating the recipe.
A complaint was later filed against the activist under Section 153 of the Indian Penal Code, alleging the activist had purposely used the phrase to hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus, according to Live Law. Fathima, on her part, had denied the allegations and submitted to the High Court that cow slaughter was not banned in Kerala and the consumption of beef was also not prohibited.
During Monday’s hearing, Justice Thomas observed that Fathima had undoubtedly hurt the religious sentiments of lakhs of Hindus who consider the cow to be a sacred animal.
“There cannot be any dispute that the term ‘Gomatha’ as is commonly understood is with reference to holy or sacred cow. Scriptures quoted by the complainant show that since the Vedic period, cow is revered as holy as deities, in India. If it is so believed by several lakhs of Hindus throughout the country, definitely, the use of the term Gomatha as a synonym for meat used in a cookery show, prima facie, is likely to wound the religious feelings of those believers.”— Kerala High Court, Bar and Bench
The court noted that there is absolutely no material on record to show that the phrase “Gomatha” has been used synonymously with meat anywhere else in India. Fathima’s choice of word prima facie appears to “be ill-motivated and purposefully made”, and her decision to upload a “highly objectionable video” like this for public viewing may affect the fundamental right of Hindu devotees, it added.
Therefore, the court held that Fathima’s actions were in violation of the bail condition imposed on her by the High Court in 2018 in another case relating to the publication of “derogatory material” about Lord Ayyappa of the Sabarimala temple.
The court opined that by “natural consequence” Fathima’s bail should have been cancelled after what she did. But it was willing to give her “one last opportunity”.
Justice Thomas said the fact that Fathima has been arrested and detained twice already in connection with two alleged crimes, has not led to an improvement in her conduct. “Still, on a firm belief that she will start recognising the rights of others also and that [the] exercise of one’s right to freedom of speech and expression should not offend the fundamental and statutory rights of others, – am inclined to give her one last opportunity,” he added.
The court granted the activist bail but ordered that she would not be allowed to publish, transmit, share, upload or disseminate any material or any of her comments through any visual and electronic media, open to public.
In 2018, Fathima, who advocates gender equality, had made news after she tried to enter the Sabarimala temple following the Supreme Court’s order allowing menstruating women inside the temple. She was unsuccessful in her attempt. In the same year, she made news for posting pictures on social media with watermelons covering her breasts in protest against the sexist comments of a college professor.
Recently in June, she made headlines again after she posted a video showing her children painting on her semi-nude body, with the heading “Body Art and Politics”. Fathima was charged under the Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences or POCSO Act and the Information Technology Act. Expecting arrest, she had sought anticipatory bail. On August 7, the Supreme Court had dismissed her plea, following which she surrendered before the police two days later.