The Kerala High Court, on November 23 has held that the use of the term ‘Gomatha’ in a cookery show can wound the religious sentiments of lakhs of Hindus who worship cows as God and subsequently directed the accused Rehana Fathima to take the video down.
Justice Sunil Thomas observed that, “Choice of the word ‘Gomatha Ularth’ prime facie appears to be ill motivated and purposefully made and that uploading of such highly objectionable video for public viewing may affect the Fundamental Right of devotees.”
Further, the Single Bench explained, “There cannot be any dispute that the term Gomatha as is commonly understood is with reference to holy or sacred cows. Scriptures quoted by the complainant show that since the Vedic period, cow is revered as holy as deities, in India. If it is so believed by several lakhs of Hindus throughout the country, definitely, the use of the term Gomatha as a synonym for meat used in a cookery show, prima facie, is likely to wound the religious feelings of those believers.”
An application was filed by a defacto complainant before the court alleging that the accused had uploaded a cooking video on her social media account preparing a dish Gomatha Ularth (Beef roast), and in the course of the preparation of the dish, she allegedly repeated the meat used as Gomatha “as if it were a synonym of meat”.
It was further contended by the prosecution, that the accused is currently out on bail and that she has violated her bail conditions and continues to indulge in objectionable posts. So, the bail order of 2018 should be cancelled. Intended to provoke religious feelings of Hindus through her cookery show, an FIR was registered against the accused at Ernakulam Police Station on May 5, 2020 under section 153 (provocation to cause riots) of the Indian Penal Code.
Counsel for the accused refuted the allegations made by the prosecution and argued that an offence under section 153 is not made as the provision itself was a bailable offence and it would not be justifiable to cancel the accused’s bail. Further, the counsel also argued that cow slaughter and consumption of beef was not banned in Kerala and that the complainant is merely trying to intimidate the accused and infringe her freedom of speech and expression.
Earlier case against the accused
In 2018, the accused was arrested in connection with publication of derogatory materials about Lord Ayyappa of Sabarimala on her Facebook account. But the court had granted her bail on condition that she should not through print, electronic or visual media make, disseminate, share or forward any comment which has the propensity to affect religious sentiments of any community or group of society.
In this case, Justice Thomas decided to give her one last opportunity while noting that the accused must “start recognising the rights of others also and that exercise of one’s right to freedom of speech and expression should not offend the fundamental and statutory rights of others.”
The court did remark that, “the accused has been repeatedly using social media for uploading her highly volatile comments. This needs to be restricted in the interest of justice.” There was sufficient reason to cancel the bail on this ground but refrained from resorting to such steps. Instead, it ordered the accused not to use visual or electronic media to publish, share, transmit or disseminate any material or comments.
The Court also ordered the removal of the video made by her from social media titled “Gomatha Ularthu” and she was directed to report before the concerned jurisdictional police station on every Mondays and Saturdays between 9 am and 10 am for a period of three months.
The order may be read here: