Filing Of Case Against Journalists Over Cartoon Condemned

The Human Rights Forum (HRF) condemns the filing of an FIR under section 295(A) of IPC (‘deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage  religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs’) against two journalists – Ahmed Shabbir of Times Now and Swathi Vadlamudi of The Hindu – for the circulation of a cartoon. The cartoon in question, drawn by Swathi, alludes in a satirical manner, to the perilous state of womens’ safety in India and was widely circulated on social media. The FIR was lodged on the basis of a complaint by one Hindu Sanghatan to the Saidabad police, Hyderabad.

While the cartoon in question does not even attract the provision of 295(A), the contention of the complainant that it is ‘derogatory’ of hindu gods and hurts the ‘sentiments of Hindus’ is vacuous. The real intention of the Hindu Sanghatan is to create and foster a climate where people become afraid to speak out, write, draw cartoons, spoof or lampoon and employ satire against Hindutva hate politics and cultural practices. It seeks to intimidate, criminalise and punish freedom of expression, a precious Constitutional guarantee.

Clearly, the Sanghatan hopes to instill fear of prosecution among those given to creative expression. The complaint is nothing short of a frivolous invocation of a penal provision so as to muzzle the legitimate right to free expression which is central to a robust democracy. The intent is to deter those critical of right-wing majoritarian politics from exercising their right to free speech and dissent for fear of frivolous prosecution and police harassment. Swathi has also been receiving extreme online abuse and threats by Hindutva elements.      

HRF appeals to concerned authorities not to take cognisance of this case and to withdraw the FIR since it is utterly trivial and is only meant to harass creative expression. We also wish to point out that Section 295 (A) of the IPC is in urgent need of amendment since it is being employed as a tool to curtail freedom of expression and harass dissenters. There are also persuasive arguments in favour of repealing this penal provision.

VS Krishna 
(HRF Coordination Committee member
TS & AP)

S. Jeevan Kumar
(HRF Coordination Committee member
TS & AP)


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