The Allahabad High Court has rejected the anticipatory bail plea of a Popular Front of India activist, observing that freedom of speech does not grant a person permission to hurt the religious beliefs of other citizens, Bar and Bench reported on Wednesday. The Popular Front of India is a Kerala-based Muslim organisation that is seen as radical and has been accused of terror activities.

“The fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression in a secular state is not an absolute license to injure and hurt the religious feelings and faiths and beliefs of fellow citizens,” the High Court said in an order on Monday.

Justice Chandra Dhari Singh rejected the bail application of Mohammad Nadeem, who had allegedly made comments against the foundation stone laying ceremony of Ram temple in Ayodhya and urged Muslims to come forward to protect the site of Babri Masjid.

The judge said that the comments made by Nadeem were capable of inciting one community against the other. “A person who takes the risk of dissemination of blasphemous messages is not entitled to get the discretion of the court exercised in his favour,” he added.

Nadeem’s counsel Yusuf Uz Zaman Safwi told the High Court that allegations made against his client were “false and fabricated”, reported The Indian Express. The counsel said that registration of the first information report was an attempt to cover up the illegality committed by wrongful detention of Nadeem in violation of the fundamental right to life and liberty.

Safwi said that Nadeem had moved an anticipatory bail application, but the Barabanki additional district and sessions judge rejected it on September 28 without considering the submissions and contentions made by the applicant.

The additional government advocate opposed the plea, saying that the applicant was involved in propagating against the foundation laying ceremony of the Ram Temple and promoting “feeling of enmity, hatred or ill-will between the two communities”.

The additional government advocate argued that Nadeem is not just a member of the Popular Front of India but an office bearer. He alleged that the applicant is involved in anti-social and anti-national activities.

The Uttar Pradesh Police had booked Nadeem under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc). It was alleged in the complaint the propaganda might lead to communal tension.

In its order, the High Court clarified that the observations were “only for the purpose of deciding the application for anticipatory bail”. The order should not have any bearing on the investigation or the trial of the case, the judge added.

The Ram temple is coming up at the site where the Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992 by Hindutva extremists who were mobilised under the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Ram Janmabhoomi movement. In November 2019, the Supreme Court in a landmark judgement held the demolition was illegal but handed over the land to government-run trust for the construction of a Ram temple. In August 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the temple.