The Madras High Court at Madurai has quashed an FIR against a YouTube video condemning Tablighi Jamaat conference, which was held in March 2020 during the first wave Covid-19 pandemic.The FIR was registered against the Indian YouTuber named Maridhas. Upon complaint of one of the members of Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam, the Melapalayam police had filed the case.
The single-judge bench of Justice G.R. Swaminathan while quashing the FIR observed that Islam cannot be equated with Tablighi Jamaat and Islam is nowhere targeted in the video. Criticism of an organization being the Tablighi Jamaat here in this case cannot be assumed as a criticism of one community. It is an organization which professes some particular religious goals. Though it is not denied that the Tablighi Jamaat did come under some grave and harsh criticism for organizing such a large gathering amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
The bench said the prosecution has not made out any of the ingredients of the offences which are alleged under the FIR here. The views expressed in the YouTube video are Maridhas’s personal views as public commentator about the event which was condemned as super spreader, and there is no doubt about that.
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The bench also observed that petitioner was entitled to protection under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. The news sources available in the public domain concerning the gathering was relied upon by the petitioner.
The bench while critically examining the YouTuber’s conduct under Section 295 of IPC in the said YouTube video where Maridhas expressed his views noted that Islam was not targeted by the petitioner at any point, not even the beliefs of Muslim religion was seen to be targeted by him in the video. Section 295A of IPC could not be invoked here by any means.
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The bench noted that the Jamaat has been pronounced as terrorist organization by the government of Saudi Arabia. Also there are reports which prepare grounds for the Islamic radicalization about the Jamaat being a revivalist and puritanical project.