Kerala police on Saturday said they have registered a non-bailable case against a lawyer of Swapna Suresh, an accused in a gold-smuggling case through diplomatic channels, for allegedly hurting religious sentiments through the social media. The lawyer was facing the case for his May 25 post in the social media criticising the attire of a State-run bus driver. That post demeaned a particular religion, a complaint against the lawyer alleged.
“We have registered a case against one lawyer Krishna Raj. The complaint says that the lawyer had falsely claimed that a KSRTC driver was wearing white robe and that he was insulting a particular religion. We need to verify the identity of the lawyer," a senior police official of the district told PTI. The case has been registered under various sections including section 295A of the Indian Penal Code, the police said. The section deals with the deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.
A photograph of the driver had gone viral and many right-wing social media handles, including that of the BJP State president K Surendran, had claimed that the driver was not wearing the uniform but a white robe. which is a traditional Muslim attire. Later, Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) clarified that the driver was wearing a sky-blue shirt which is the uniform of its staff and the picture appeared to be like a robe due to the angle in which the photograph was taken.
Swapna Suresh, who met the media, claimed that the case was registered against her lawyer after her “recent revelations in the gold-smuggling case" against Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his family. “Why have they not registered a case when the Facebook post came up? Why are they doing it now? I cannot change lawyers every now and then…," Suresh said.
She questioned the timing of registration of the case a day after she released audio-clips of her purported conversation with a man who, according to her, is connected with powerful people in the government. She said she released the audio to “substantiate" her claim that he had approached her to “settle" the issues arising following her statement made before a Magistrate Court recently on the alleged role of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his family members in certain alleged smuggling activities.
In the purported audio-clips, the man named Shaj Kiran, a former mediaperson, was heard asking Suresh why she gave a statement before the court under Section 164 of CrPC and said the Chief Minister would not tolerate her statements targeting his family members in connection with a certain smuggling case. “Kiran told me that Sarith will be arrested. It happened. He said Sarith will be released soon. That too happened. Kiran also said that my lawyer will be in trouble. Now a case has been registered against my lawyer," she said.
She pleaded to the media saying: “Don’t hurt the people around me". “Now that a case has been registered against my lawyer, will anyone else come to defend me? … I am already labelled as a terrorist… I want to live…," she said.
Triggering a political storm in the state, Suresh, earlier this week, claimed that she disclosed before the court — in her statement under Section 164 of Criminal Procedure Code — the other people allegedly involved in the smuggling cases and their “degrees of involvement." She said she had given statements against the Chief Minister, his family, former Kerala Minister K T Jaleel and some other top bureaucrats. Suresh, a former employee of the UAE Consulate here, was taken into custody by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) along with another accused Sandeep Nair from Bengaluru on July 11, 2020.
The NIA, Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Customs conducted separate probes into the racket that was busted with the seizure of gold worth Rs 15 crore from the diplomatic baggage of the UAE Consulate at Thiruvananthapuram airport on July 5, 2020. Several people, including M Sivasankar, the former Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister and another ex-employee of the UAE Consulate here, Sarith, were arrested in connection with the case.