Describing it as a colonial-era law, Indian website Lapidomedia reports that a warrant for the arrest of national cricket captain Mahindra Singh Dhoni has been issued in connection with his appearance on the front page of a business magazine in the guise of Vishnu, one of Hinduism’s foremost gods.
Dhoni received a non-bailable warrant on 8 January this year, issued by a court in Anantapur in the state of Andhra Pradesh, after he failed to present himself to the court despite earlier summons.
When the original warrant was issued Dhoni was on a cricket tour of Australia. He took up the matter with the Supreme Court, which stayed the warrant. This repeated a similar order in September 2015 when the SC stayed the criminal proceedings against him on the complaint lodged but this time in a different state, Karnataka.
The SC has adjourned the case until 12 May.
Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code, first introduced by the British Raj in 1927, outlaws the ‘deliberate and malicious . . . outrage of religious feelings. Punishment is up to three years’ imprisonment and/or a fine.
Dhoni, a revered icon of Indian cricket, received a non-bailable warrant in January this year in Section 295A case, in connection with a charge of allegedly hurting Hindu sentiment.
‘Any class of citizens of India’ is protected against ‘insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class’ says the century-old law. Lapidomedia says that under the rubric of ‘hurt to religious sentiment’, religious communities, cults and sects are using the law to stifle criticism of any religious behaviour across the whole of South Asia, and undermining freedom and reform.