A Srirangapatna court has deferred the decision on the bail plea of RSS leader Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat, who was accused of making derogatory remarks against Muslim women. The court, presided over by 3rd Additional District and Sessions Judge Gopal Krishna Rai T, will announce its ruling on January 17.
In an event organised by the Hindu Jagrana Vedike as part of the Hanuman Jayanti celebrations in Srirangapatna on December 24, 2023, Prabhakar Bhat had said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government had granted Muslim women "permanent husbands" by criminalising the practice of triple talaq (instant divorce). He claimed that before this intervention, Muslim women did not have stable marriages, stating, "Muslim women didn’t have permanent husbands, they had different husbands every day. PM Narendra Modi gave them permanent husbands. Following this, former JD(S) member and activist Najma Nazeer filed a complaint accusing Prabhakar of making provocative remarks about Muslim women and promoting religious animosity. On December 28, the Srirangapatna court granted Prabhakar Bhat an interim bail. Najma then filed another petition opposing Prabhakar’s bail application.
During the hearing on Wednesday, January 10, Advocate S Balan, representing complainant Najma Nazir, argued against granting bail to Prabhakar Bhat. Balan contended that the charges could potentially fall under Section 13 of the Unlawful Activities Control Act (UAPA) and provisions of the Karnataka Control of Organised Crime Act, 2000.
Balan further stressed that freedom of speech should not infringe upon religious freedom and called for the state government to uphold peace and order. “Freedom of speech and expression cannot be allowed to ride on religious freedom. The state government should maintain peace and order to facilitate the welfare of the people. For this, those who violate the law should be brought under the law,” he said.
“The accused's inflammatory speech, captured on video on December 24, targeted the Muslim community, specifically making derogatory remarks about Muslim women. The content, if subjected to hashing and authentication processes, could reveal the entire conspiracy,” Balan asserted. A hash value is a unique digital fingerprint generated by a hashing algorithm to ensure the integrity of a file and detect any changes.
In response, Advocate Chandra Gowda, representing Prabhakar Bhat, argued that the cited sections in the FIR were not applicable. Gowda challenged the credibility of the complainant, stating that she was not an aggrieved woman and that she had filed the complaint with malicious intent to gain publicity. He said Prabhakar Bhat was 82 years old and had a health condition, having undergone heart surgery.
Chandra Gowda said Bhat's speech was not intended to spread communal hatred and questioned the delayed filing of the complaint. Meanwhile, the government prosecutor, representing Srirangapatna police, argued against the eligibility of the accused for bail, citing the serious nature of the charges.
Prabhakar Bhat had filed a petition in the Karnataka High Court seeking cancellation of the FIR registered against him. Additional Special Public Prosecutor BN Jagadish, who represented the state government, had told the High Court, “The petitioner was granted interim bail in the trial court. So, we are not arresting them. However, they must cooperate with the investigation. The government has the responsibility to protect the people. The Supreme Court said that those who make hate speech should be prosecuted. It does not matter the substance of the complaint or who made the complaint. The entire speech made by the applicant is being scrutinised. An appropriate report in this regard will be submitted to the concerned court.”
The Karnataka HC then passed an order directing the state government not to arrest him and instructing Prabhakar Bhat to cooperate with the investigation.