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Updated: November 9, 2011 08:27 IST

Don’t take people’s sentiments for granted: Supreme Court to Agnivesh

Legal Correspondent
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Human Rights activist Swami Agnivesh. File photo
The Hindu
Human Rights activist Swami Agnivesh. File photo

The Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed its displeasure at Swami Agnivesh's reported remarks made in Jammu and Kashmir recently that the Amarnath Yatra was a “fraud in the name of religion.”

A two-judge Bench of Justices H.L. Dattu and C.K. Prasad refused to quash the criminal complaint against Swami Agnivesh in a trial court in Haryana. But it allowed him to file an affidavit and posted the matter for further hearing on November 14.

Even as an investigation began after a case was filed against him, Swami Agnivesh moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court for getting the complaint quashed. As his petition was dismissed, he filed the present appeal. He had been granted anticipatory bail.

Senior counsel Gopal Subramaniam, appearing for Swami Agnivesh, said the statement was made in the context of arrangements made for the yatra and it was distorted. Swami Agnivesh's intention, he argued, was not to hurt the people's sentiments; he had even clarified this immediately.

Justice H.L. Dattu told Mr. Subramaniam: “You [Swami Agnivesh] have achieved your purpose. Thereafter, you realised your sin and issued the clarification. First you say something which is widely published. Then you clarify. Does it absolve you of all the sins committed already? Public figures should be more sensitive to the sentiments of ordinary people. The sentiments of ordinary people can't be taken for granted. They should weigh their words ten times before they speak.”

Justice C.K. Prasad said: “The sentiments of ordinary people have been hurt.”

Though the Bench was not inclined to quash the proceedings, it adjourned the hearing after Mr. Subramaniam submitted that the appellant wanted to file an affidavit.

My hat is off to your astute commnad over this topic-bravo!

from:  Xexilia
Posted on: Dec 12, 2011 at 10:42 IST

If you really believe in your religion, these kind of statements from people should not hurt you. Although I am not a supporter of Agnivesh (I believe he just wants limelight) , I think it just shows how weak your religious sentiments are which get hurt by just any one.

from:  Harsh
Posted on: Nov 10, 2011 at 12:44 IST

Agnivesh's statement might have come from his reading of hindu scriptures - viz., vedas and upanishads. There are quotes in Yajurveda which calls an idol worshiper a fool.

from:  kesar
Posted on: Nov 9, 2011 at 17:23 IST

Seriously yes. Look at the terms that they have used "you realised your *SIN* and issued the clarification. First you say something which is widely published. Then you clarify. Does it absolve you of all the *SINS* committed already?"!! Sins?!!
All the long he had been an activists on his own. He is a dissident, he doesn't have look for popular support like politicians. All that he stated was the shivalingam is a natural phenomenon and the divinity attached to it is a religious deception! Does the court have any proof to state that that is a divine formation or something? If not on what basis can he be penalised?
Should religious people be so narrow minded that their ego gets hurt every now and then over frivolous reasons!

from:  Aravind
Posted on: Nov 9, 2011 at 16:30 IST

It seems more like the Judges' beliefs have been hurt -- the statement by the honourable judges proves that even Judges of the Supreme Court are prone to personal feelings/emotions and may get carried away by personal prejudices.

from:  Yashwanth P
Posted on: Nov 9, 2011 at 15:58 IST

Hurting sentiments should not be a ground to curb freedom of speech. That would be really regressive.

from:  Manish
Posted on: Nov 9, 2011 at 14:57 IST

Yet another senseless comment by the court... these statements by hon. judges raise serious questions about their erudition. If statements of fact are held hostage to sentiments then where is the value in truth.

from:  Shashank
Posted on: Nov 9, 2011 at 14:36 IST

Vedas and Upanishads are against idol worship. Will the court pass such a judgement against vedas and upanishads? Agnivesh's statement might have come from his reading of hindu scriptures - viz., vedas and upanishads. There are quotes in Yajurveda which calls an idol worshiper a fool. Will the court ban Yajurveda? These are thoroughly disappointing verdicts. Every Indian should read about reformist movements - idol worship was opposed during reformist movement quoting vedas and upanishads.

from:  Nivedita
Posted on: Nov 9, 2011 at 13:49 IST

High time to debate on 'how it can be decided that a statement has hurt the public sentiment' and, thus, can be considered a legal offense ? What are the guidelines and precedents for a judge to judge on this ? Though it is ultimately the prerogative of the judge to decide his own judgment about a certain case he is presiding over for justice, it should be open to public debate as such. As the 'public' in a society grows more intolerant in general, the avenues of voicing contrary view-points by individuals within the society would narrow down considerably leading to a kind of autocratic and illiberal social environment. Such a situation would not be a happy situation.

from:  Viveka
Posted on: Nov 9, 2011 at 13:26 IST

The Hon. Judge should have read Swami Dayanand Saraswati's Satyarthprakash before making such a statement. Swami Agnivesh comes from Arya Samaj. Why is it the court not considering the hurt of Arya Samaj followers? Swami Dayanand Saraswati has provided a whole lot of hymns from Vedas and Upanishads to prove that Rama or Krishna cannot be God. Wont that hurt those who worship Rama or Krishna? Wont idol worship hurt the Arya Samaj followers or those who considers Vedas and Upanishads are principal texts?
In my humble opinion, the honorable justices should refrain from passing judgements like this - which indeed reflects their personal beliefs. Hinduism is not averse to debates. Don't try to quell debates in the name of hurting sentiments. What of the sentiments of rationalists or atheists? Aren't they too hurt by the growing religious frauds?

from:  Roopesh
Posted on: Nov 9, 2011 at 11:31 IST

Good that the Supreme Court takes cognizance of statements by leaders which hurt the beliefs, age-old customs and sentiments of the people. At times, some politicians denigrate Hindu Gods. Hopefully, after the apex court's direction, we can expect that politicians don't say something that create more divisions in the society.

from:  Chandramouli
Posted on: Nov 9, 2011 at 10:46 IST

Had Swami Agnivesh made similar comments for some other religion, he would have been facing a tough time. Considering how the people are being cheated by bad elements in the garb of saffron, I feel the time has now necessitates the need for an organization of saints without whose permission, no one can wear saffron robes. Everyone in saffron robe will have to have an I-card.

from:  S L Gera
Posted on: Nov 9, 2011 at 10:28 IST

By the same Analogy Mr Prashant Bhushan has hurt the sentiments of the Citizens of this country by supporting cause of Plebiscite in Kashmir. Like Agnivesh he should not be allowed to get away with a Statement though it may be his opinion which hurts most of the Citizens of India.

from:  Raja Ram Shekhar
Posted on: Nov 9, 2011 at 10:14 IST
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