Supreme Court Lifts Kerala High Court's "Complete Gag Order" On Activist

The court retained the second part of the High Court order and said Ms Fathima could not publish content on social media or in print that may hurt religious feelings

Supreme Court Lifts Kerala High Court's 'Complete Gag Order' On Activist

Kerala activist Rehana Fathima was granted bail in a 2018 case over "sexually implicit" material (File)

New Delhi:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday lifted a Kerala High Court order that restricted activist Rehana Fathima - accused of "ill motivation" in using the term "Gomatha" to refer to a beef-based food item - from posting or publishing her views in either social media, print or electronic media.

However, the top court retained the second part of the High Court order and said Ms Fathima could not publish content on social media or in print that may hurt religious feelings.

Now Ms Fathima can post on social media and air her views on TV or in print, but cannot publish or air such messages which will hurt religious sentiments.

Referring to the High Court's order, a top court bench headed by Justice RF Nariman today said: "It is a complete gag order."

Earlier, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves (representing Ms Fathima) prayed for the setting aside of the order, which had been imposed after the court felt she had violated bail conditions - to not hurt the sentiments of any religious community - imposed in a prior case.

In November last year the Kerala High Court issued a blanket ban after Ms Fathima uploaded a video from a cookery show in which she used the term "Gomatha" to refer to a beef-based dish.

The court had said: "there cannot be any dispute the term... is commonly understood with reference to the holy, or sacred cow... use of the term 'Gomatha' as a synonym for meat... is prima facie likely to wound the religious feelings of those believers."

"Choice of the word 'Gomatha' prima facie appears to be ill-motivated... uploading of such a highly objectionable video may affect the fundamental right of devotees," the court added.

Ms Fathima had been granted bail in a 2018 case in which she was accused of exposing herself in "sexually implicit postures" and posting "derogatory material" on Hindu deity Lord Ayyappa.

The petitioner who had moved the Kerala High Court last year to cancel Ms Fathima's bail had argued she used the term "Gomatha" intentionally and to hurt religious sentiments of Hindus who consider cows sacred.

Justice Sunil Thomas of the High Court had accepted that contention and imposed the above restrictions on Rehana Fathima till the end of the trial relating to the 2018 case.

Ms Fathima has denied the allegations and has submitted to the High Court that cow slaughter was not banned in Kerala and the consumption of beef was also not prohibited.

With input from ANI