SC protects Prashant Bhushan from arrest for 'opium' tweet in Ramayana broadcast

NEW DELHI: On Friday, he protected activist lawyer from arrest in an FIR claiming that he allegedly hurt religious sentiments by tweeting that ministers were providing Ramayan and Mahabharata opium to people during the confinement while ignoring the difficulties of millions of migrant workers.

A bank of Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna judges requested the Gujarat police response to Bhushan's request, seeking to override the FIR hosted by a former army officer Jaydev Joshi at the Bhaktinagar police station, Rajkot. The bank ordered that no coercive measures be taken against the lawyer until further orders.

Bhushan invoked Karl Marx and combatively defended his March 28 tweet, which said As millions of people starve and walk hundreds of miles home due to forced confinement, our ruthless ministers celebrate consuming and feeding people with opium from Ramayana and Mahabharata.

He said: Several people, including Karl Marx, have called the opium religion of the masses, as well as the judgment of the. The phrase religion is the opium of the masses and its various related expressions are intended to awaken the sleeping masses to the ever present danger of not paying due attention to their own economic, social and political interests and not accustoming to injuring the religious feelings.

Bhushan said he used the word 'opium' to indicate that the minister intended to calm people in the sober security and apathy of a tele-serial. He said: the plaintiff or any other person

I cannot say that the feelings of all people who believe in religion as a class are offended because 'opium' and 'religion' are used in the same sentence. It is an absurd proposal, to say the least, and any such complaint would be an abuse of the legal and frivolous process. The claimants postulate that the feelings of Hindus as a class are reprehensible and without any basis.

Bhushan said the complaint did not reveal why or how it is offensive to use opium and religion in the same sentence. Opium is a medical prescription drug that has ancient roots in Ayurveda ... even today, prescription drugs containing opium are legally prescribed in the treatment of pain in India. Presented in the criteria of a 'reasonable man' established by the SC, no Hindu has reason to be offended by the use of a medical drug in the same sentence as the Hindu religion, he said,

According to Bhushan, the FIR also mentioned that it retweeted some tweets from responsible and respected citizens in the National Herald editor and a former IAS officer that the police felt was circulating false and unverified claims. A simple reading of the (original) tweets shows (that the allegations are) totally unfounded, as these tweets have been corroborated by screenshots of government orders about which comments were made. Such tweets cannot be taken in any way as statements that would cause alarm or fear to the general public or disturb the tranquility of the public. They were a genuine criticism of government policy that is duly protected by Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution, he said.