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Can't Assault and Kill in Name of Religion, Says SC Warning Courts Against 'Religious Bias'

Strongly disapproving of hate crimes, the Supreme Court maintained that every court has to be mindful of the pluralistic character of the Indian society and hence its duty to objectively decide rights of different groups.

Utkarsh Anand | CNN-News18

Updated:February 15, 2018, 9:18 AM IST
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Can't Assault and Kill in Name of Religion, Says SC Warning Courts Against 'Religious Bias'
Supreme Court of India. (Network18 Creatives)
New Delhi: A different religious identity can never be a justification for assaulting or killing a person, held the Supreme Court as it cautioned courts against passing any order which may smack of “bias for or against a community.”

Strongly disapproving of hate crimes, the top court maintained that every court has to be mindful of the pluralistic character of the Indian society and hence its duty to objectively decide rights of different groups.

“We have no doubt that a court fully conscious of the plural composition of the country while called upon to deal with rights of various communities, cannot make such observations which may appear to be coloured with a bias for or against a community,” ruled a bench of Justices SA Bobde and L Nageswara Rao in a recent order.

The SC said this while cancelling the bail of three men, who were let out in a murder case after the Bombay High Court held that “the only fault of the deceased was that he belonged to another religion.”

In the 2014 murder case, the HC had granted bail to the three accused after noting that they had killed the Muslim man as they were provoked in the name of religion.

“The fact that the deceased belonged to another religion is in favour of the accused...The accused, otherwise, had no other motive, such as any personal enmity, against the innocent deceased. The only fault of the deceased was that he belonged to another religion,” Justice Mridula Bhatkar said in the January 2017 order.

When a relative of deceased Shaikh Mohsin challenged the bail order, the apex court said it was difficult to understand why the HC released the trio on bail by citing the religion of the deceased as the primary ground.

“We find that the aforesaid reason can, on a fair reading, be understood or misunderstood almost as a mitigating circumstance or a kind of a justification for the murder...it is obvious that the fact that the deceased belonged to a certain community cannot be a justification for any assault much less a murder,” emphasised the Court.

It said there was a possibility that the HC judge wanted to rule out a personal motive against the victim, but only emphasise communal hatred.

“It is also possible that the learned single Judge may not have intended to hurt the feelings of any particular community or support the feelings of another community but the words are clearly vulnerable to such criticism. The direction cannot be sustained,” held the bench.

The court thus set aside the HC order and asked all three accused, Ranjeet Shankar Yadav, Ajay Dilip Lalge and Vijay Rajendran Gambhire — all reportedly the members of Hindu Rashtra Sena, to surrender and seek bail afresh.

The bench directed them to show up in HC on February 16 and apply for bail again, which will be decided within 6 weeks.

On June 2, 2014, a meeting of the right wing outfit Hindu Rashtra Sena (HRS) was conducted at Hadapsar, Pune, on account of the alleged defiling of a statue of Shivaji Maharaj.

The accused noticed Shaikh Mohsin, who was wearing a pastel green colour shirt and had sported a beard. They allegedly targeted him and his friend Wasim and assaulted them with hockey sticks, bats and stones. Mohsin later succumbed to his injuries.

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| Edited by: Mayur Borah
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