The Bombay High Court recently stated that the Sanatan Sanstha, a Hindu militant organization, is not classified as a banned or terrorist organization under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Instead, the organization is considered a spiritual group that provides education on topics such as dharma, religion, and spirituality, it said.
A division bench of Justices Sunil Shukre and Kamal Khata, made this observation while granting bail to one Vijay Lodhi accused under the UAPA, and setting aside a special court order which had rejected the bail plea of Lodhi, Bar and Bench reported.
Lodhi had been arrested by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) for allegedly collecting or preparing and storing explosives and fire arms in his house for the Sanatan Sanstha.
The Sanatan Sanstha stands accused of targeting and killing several prominent individuals who were known as vocal opponents of Hindu nationalism, including human rights activists, public intellectuals, and journalists. Among those who were allegedly targeted and killed by the group are MM Kalburgi, Govind Pansare, and Gauri Lankesh.
The HC said: “The most intriguing part of this case is that ‘Sanatan Sanstha’ is an organization which has not been declared to be a banned or terrorist organization or a frontal organization of any banned terrorist group within the meaning and contemplation of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2004.”
It went on to say: “In fact, the official website of ‘Sanatan Sanstha’ shows that it is a registered charitable trust and its aim is to impart spiritual knowledge to the curious in the society, inculcate religious behavior in the masses and providing personal guidance to seekers for their spiritual upliftment. Official website also throws light upon the activities of ‘Sanatan Sanstha’. These activities include such initiatives as are taken for spreading of spirituality in the society, organizing free of charge lectures and guidance camps on various aspects of spirituality and for initiating interested into spiritual endeavours, holding weekly Satsangs in local languages, guiding about the spiritual science, organizing ‘Bal Sanskar Varg / Moral Education Class for children, conducting education on dharma/righteousness and so on.”
The Maharashtra ATS accused the Sanatan Sanstha of having the goal of establishing a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ and of conspiring to achieve it through several means, including organizing training camps for explosives and firearms, causing instability and undermining the country’s sovereignty, and obstructing the screening of movies and Western cultural events.