The Madras High Court has quashed criminal proceedings initiated against filmmaker Pa. Ranjith for his statement on the Chola era during a public event in 2019.
“Voice of the oppressed is not meant to be oppressed or criminalised. But to be listened, discussed, addressed and remedied,” the court observed.
Pa. Ranjith has not exceeded the limit to freedom of speech under Article 19 (1)(a) of the Constitution, observed the Madurai Bench of court.
The filmmaker’s criticism meted upon the Chola Kingdom, according to the court, was based on historical books.
While attending a program organised by Neelapulligal Movement Association in June 2019, award winning director Pa. Ranjith stated that the caste system was introduced by King Raja Raja Chola. Chola era was a dark one, that resulted in a large number of the population becoming landless poor, he said.
Soon after the speech, a suo moto FIR registered in Thirupananthal Police Station for offences under Sections 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) and 153-A(i)(a) IPC (promoting enmity between different groups by words on the ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony).
Ranjith was granted anticipatory bail by the court in the case.
“By going through the History of Chola era as found in the stones, inscriptions, copper plates etc, views have been made by historians that casteism was prevailing during Chola era. Police cannot take action against those historians for having made such comments. The main purpose of the history is to take lessons from the society of yesteryears for reforming the present-day society”, the court recorded,” Live Law quoted Justice G. Ilangovan as saying while quashing the FIR.
The Madras High Court also quoted Dr BR Ambedkar to explain the meaning of “fraternity” and the antithesis, i.e., caste system, in the context of the constitution and oppressed classes, the legal website reported.