SC stays criminal proceedings against Swami Prasad Maurya over Ramcharitmanas remarks

An FIR was lodged in Uttar Pradesh's Pratapgarh district last year against Maurya on the complaint of a local resident

Representative image (photo: IANS)
Representative image (photo: IANS)
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PTI

The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed criminal proceedings against Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Swami Prasad Maurya in a case in which he has been accused of making "objectionable" remarks about the Ramcharitmanas, an epic poem in the Awadhi language based on the Ramayana and composed by renowned 16th-century Indian poet Tulsidas.

The apex court also issued notice and sought a response from the Uttar Pradesh government on Maurya's plea challenging an order of the Allahabad High Court, which had dismissed his petition seeking quashing of the proceedings pending in a Pratapgarh court in the state.

"Why do you have to be so touchy? It is a matter of interpretation. How is it an offence?" a bench of justices B.R. Gavai and Sandeep Mehta asked the counsel appearing for Uttar Pradesh. "Notice… Stay of proceedings," the bench said.

An FIR was lodged in Pratapgarh district last year against Maurya and others on a complaint by local resident Santosh Kumar Mishra, where the former UP minister was accused of saying that certain chaupai (quatrains) of the Ramcharitmanas insult large sections of society and thus should be banned.

Maurya allegedly said the sacred text of the Hindus was written by Tulsidas for "self-praise", in which he displayed contempt for Dalits, tribals, and backward classes by naming their castes and terming them Shudra, a word used to denote so-called 'lower' castes.

The police submitted a charge sheet against Maurya and others in a lower court, which issued summonses to them. Maurya has claimed there was no evidence against him to corroborate the charge that he vilified the Hindu religious text.

The latest court directive comes days after the consecration of the idol of Ram Lalla, the infant Ram, who is the presiding deity of the newly-built Ram temple in Ayodhya.

In his petition before the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court, Maurya had challenged the charge sheet filed against him as well as the summoning order passed by a lower court directing him to appear before it in the case. The high court dismissed his plea on 31 October 2023.

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