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Dec 04, 2012 at 10:16am IST

Indian rationalist stays in Finland fearing arrest for hurting religious sentiments

New Delhi: Rationalist Sanal Edamaruku has been forced to live outside India as he fears an arrest back home. He has been accused of hurting religious sentiments and an FIR has been registered against him in Mumbai. But Edamaruku says he will never apologise for something that he has scientific evidence for.

Freedom of speech is a Constitutional right of every Indian citizen. But for Edamaruku, freedom of speech came at a high price as he is now forced to take shelter outside India fearing an arrest. In March 2012, when water started dripping from a cross at a Mumbai church, locals called it a miracle. Edamaruku checked the area and established that the miracle was just a plumbing defect and the source of the dripping water could be a sewage line running close to the cross. The rationalist was accused of blasphemy and an FIR was registered against him by the catholic christian secular forum (CSF) and The Maharashtra Christian Youth Forum. Under section 295(A) of the IPC, it's a non-bailable offence.

President of the Maharashtra Christian Youth Forum Agnelo Fernandes said, "Many allegations he has put on catholic community, the church the bishop the pope, catholic people, that is why we have filed the FIR. Now also we are clear that if he apologises to the community, we will withdraw the case or we will strongly recommend his arrest."

Edamaruku has been forced to stay in Finland for the past six months where he was on a visit when the case was filed. He spoke to CNN-IBN from Finland. "The church is putting allegations on me, clergy manufactures miracles, Pope is anti-science and priests spread rumours," Edamaruku said.

The church says it is hurt by Edamaruku's allegations, but denied having a role in the case.

Father Augustine Palett, Parish Priest of Our Lady of Vailankanni Church Irla, said, "Christian philosophy is such that no one would try to harm him or threaten him. Only some people have filed an FIR. It's not to threaten him though."

Legal experts call it a blatant abuse of the law. Lawyer Colin Gonsalves said, "This is a total misuse of law as there is no criminal offence at all. An offence requires a deliberate and malicious act, what has this man done? He is a rationalist, he is giving you a rational non-spiritual explanation for water dripping from the statue."

Legal experts argue that several sections of the law need to be amended or done away with as they can be misused to harass people like Sanal Edamaruku or the girls from Palghar caught in the Facebook controversy. But till that happens, law enforcement agencies need to ensure that the law is used to protect its citizens and not violate their fundamental rights.