The Supreme Court on Thursday passed an interim order staying the criminal proceedings initiated against Samajwadi Party leader Swami Prasad Maurya for allegedly insulting the Shri Ramcharitmanas and inciting people to tear and burn pages of the Hindu epic.

“Why are you so touchy about these things? It is a matter of interpretation. It is a line of thought. How is it an offence? He (Maurya) cannot be held responsible for burning of copies,” said a bench of Justice B.R. Gavai and Sandeep Mehta to additional advocate general (AAG) Sharan Dev Singh Thakur, appearing in advance on behalf of the Uttar Pradesh government.

Agreeing to examine the special leave petition filed by Maurya, the bench proceeded to issue notice to the state government and the complainant -- at whose instance an FIR was lodged against the SP leader.

The apex court made the notice returnable within a period of four weeks and in the meantime, ordered a stay on proceedings pending before the lower court.

In October 2023, the Allahabad High Court had dismissed Maurya’s application filed under Section 482 Cr.P.C (Criminal Procedure Code) challenging the charge sheet and the summons issued by the Special Judge directing him to appear in the court to face the trial.

A bench of Justice Subhash Vidyarthi had said that from perusal of the charge sheet and other material on record, a prima-facie case was made out to make him stand on trial in the lower court.

The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court was of the view that public representatives should refrain from “indulging in any act which disturbs communal harmony.

In his complaint, lawyer Santosh Kumar Mishra alleged that the protesters burnt copies of Ramcharitmanas -- the epic based on Ramayana and composed by 16th-century Bhakti poet Tulsidas.

Thereafter, an FIR was lodged by the City Kotwali police on February 1 last year in Pratapgarh against Maurya, Samajwadi Party MLA Dr R.K. Verma and some others under Sections 153, 295, 298, 505 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

(Except for the headline, this story, from a syndicated feed, has not been edited by Odishatv.in staff)