Madras High Court on Friday, January 07th, refused to quash an FIR registered against the Catholican Diocese Pastor P. George Ponnaih for an inflammatory speech against the Hindus.

Madras High Court also made a few observations about religious conversions. According to Live Law, the judge observed –

“India was partitioned on the ground of religion. Millions died in the ensuing riots. That is why, our founding fathers consciously adopted secularism as the guiding principle of the new republic…Freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess and propagate one’s religion was made a fundamental right. But the tryst with destiny can be achieved only if the multicultural character of the Indian society continues to remain. In other words, the status quo in the matter of religious demography has to be maintained. If there is a serious subversion of the status quo, calamitous consequences may follow”

Justice GR Swaminathan, the judge also reiterated during the judgment that it is important to maintain the status quo regarding religious demography. He said – “If there is a serious subversion of the status quo, calamitous consequences may follow”. According to the legal blog, Justice Swaminathan said that religious conversions cannot be a “group agenda”.

During the hearing, the court observed that if the pastor insults another religion, he cannot claim immunity from the application of Section 295A, 153A and 505(2) of IPC. However the pastor was exonerated of the offences under Section 143, 269 and 506(1) of IPC and Section 3 of Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.

“…The question is whether the State can ignore such incendiary statements as that of a lunatic fringe”, the bench remarked.

Justice G.R Swaminathan observed that conversion to another religion out of personal conviction is a choice that should be respected.

“…Dileep Kumar became A.R.Rahman. Yuvan Shankar Raja is now a Muslim. One of the sons of T.Rajendar has embraced Islam. These are perfectly understandable and no exception can be taken. But religious conversions cannot be a group agenda. Our Constitution speaks of composite culture. This character has to be maintained. The clock of history can never be put back. But the status quo that obtains in the year 2022 as regards religious demographic profile may have to be maintained”.

One can take judicial notice of the fact a large number of Scheduled Caste Hindus, though having converted to Christianity and professing the said religion, call themselves Hindus on record for the purpose of availing reservation. Such persons are called as crypto-christians. There was even a motion picture based on this theme (Rudra Thandavam). Out of courtesy, I refrain from mentioning the name of a Judge who belonged to such a category. There was even a writ petition challenging his status. Everyone pretended as if they did not know the truth. But when he died, he was buried as per Christian rites in a cemetery…”

The court opined that this is the reason why the petitioner accused was overconfident in his speech about Christians reaching the figure of 72 per cent, though the Census figures paint a different picture.

FIR Against The Priest –

“A reading of the petitioner’s speech as a whole does not leave anyone in doubt. His target is the Hindu community. He is putting them on one side and the Christians and Muslims on the other. He is clearly pitting one group against the other. The distinction is made solely on the ground of religion. The petitioner repeatedly demeans the Hindu community”, Justice GR Swaminathan observed while underlining that the ‘evangelist’ can be booked under Sections 153A as well as Section 505 (2) of IPC.

The court also observed that the petitioner painted ‘Bharat Mata’ and ‘Bhuma Devi’ as sources of infection and filth. Since it is a direct attack on the religious feelings of Hindus, Section 295A can be invoked, the court noted.

“Bhuma Devi is considered as a Goddess by all believing Hindus. I use the expression “believing” because, even materialists, rationalists and non-believers also can be counted as Hindus. I may add tongue-in-cheek that even the great iconoclast and rationalist Periyar did not cease to be a Hindu. Bharat Mata evokes a deeply emotional veneration in a very large number of Hindus. She is often portrayed carrying the national flag and riding a lion. She is to many Hindus a Goddess in her own right…”, court reasoned as to why Section 295 A would be applicable for offensive portrayal of the Goddess.

DISCLAIMER: The author is solely responsible for the views expressed in this article. The author carries the responsibility for citing and/or licensing of images utilized within the text.