In a recent development, the Supreme Court of India has held criminal proceedings against Samajwadi Party leader Swami Prasad Maurya concerning his derogatory remarks about Ramcharitmanas. The court, in its comments, stated that Maurya’s remarks were his opinion, questioning their classification as criminal.
Swami Prasad Maurya had sought the quashing of criminal proceedings against him over derogatory comments made about Ramcharitmanas. The Lucknow Bench had previously rejected his plea to dismiss legal proceedings at the Pratapgarh district court.
Maurya faces charges of hurting religious sentiments due to derogatory remarks about Ramcharitmanas, and he asserted in his plea that the case against him was politically motivated. Known for using derogatory language against Hindu deities, Maurya has made controversial statements over the years, with his followers even burning copies of Ramcharitmanas in his support.
During the hearing, a two-judge bench consisting of Justice BR Gavai and Justice Sandeep Mehta stayed proceedings against Maurya. Justice Gavai questioned the sensitivity of the UP government, while Justice Mehta emphasised that Maurya’s remarks were a matter of interpretation, not an offence. The court countered claims that Maurya could be held responsible for the burning of Ramcharitmanas, deeming it a “line of thought.” The court issued a notice returnable in four weeks and stayed the proceedings.
Justice Gavai questioned the UP government, “Why do you have to be so touchy?” Echoing his stand on the matter, Justice Mehta said, “It’s a matter of interpretation. Plain and simple. How is it an offence?” When a government law officer pointed out that copies of Ramcharitmanas were burnt, the court countered that Maurya could not be held responsible for that as it “was a line of thought”.
On January 22, Maurya, in a statement to a news channel, alleged that Ramcharitmanas, authored by Goswami Tulsidas in the 17th century, promoted social discrimination and spread hatred. He called for a ban on the “objectionable portions” of the scripture.
“Religion is meant for the welfare of humanity and for strengthening it. If there is any insult to a section of society due to certain lines in the Ramcharitamanas on the basis of ‘jaati’, ‘varn’ and ‘varg’, then it is certainly not ‘dharma’, it is ‘adharma’. There are certain lines in which names of castes such as ‘teli’ and ‘kumhaar’ are mentioned,” said the SP leader.
In a show of support, the Akhil Bharatiya OBC Mahasabha burned copies of Ramcharitmanas in Vrindavan Yojana, Lucknow, on January 29, 2023, endorsing Maurya’s call for a ban.
Despite the claim of politically motivated cases against him, Swami Prasad Maurya continued to make derogatory remarks about the Hindu religion. In a recent instance, he criticised the Ram Mandir Pran Pratishtha ceremony, terming it hypocrisy and fraud. He asserted that the event was organised by the BJP to divert attention from real issues and accused the government of hiding its sins through religious events.
“The BJP had organised the event just to distract the voters from the real problems. The party members are fake. This all is fake. Pran Pratishtha should be now done to the family members who have died. If a stone becomes alive by Pran Pratishtha, why can’t a dead person walk?” he said.
“They don’t want people to discuss unemployment, inflation, and other social problems, so they are distracting the voters by making Ram Mandir. Lord Ram has been worshipped for thousands of years. What was the need to organise the Pran Pratishtha event? The people in the government want to hide their sins so they are organising such religious events. They want themselves to be called Gods,” he added.
It is worth noting the contrasting approach of the Supreme Court in cases involving derogatory remarks against religions. The court, in the case of Swami Prasad Maurya, questioned the government’s sensitivity, declaring his remarks as opinions. However, in the case of Nupur Sharma, the court blamed her for inciting unrest and even held her responsible for the beheading of an individual. The court’s differing stance raises questions about its approach to communal tensions and religious matters, urging a reevaluation of potential double standards.