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We call on the Catholic Archdiocese of Bombay to encourage the withdrawal of complaints against Indian Rationalist Sanal Edamaruku
  • Petitioned Bishop Agnelo Rufino Gracias

This petition was delivered to:

Auxiliary Bishop of Bombay Catholic Archdiocese
Bishop Agnelo Rufino Gracias
Archbishop of Bombay
Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay
Catholic Bishops' Conference of India
Catholic Bishops' Conference of India

We call on the Catholic Archdiocese of Bombay to encourage the withdrawal of complaints against Indian Rationalist Sanal Edamaruku

    1. Petition by

      Rationalist Association

Please join the Rationalist Association (UK) in condemning the misuse of Indian law by several Catholic organisations to silence a campaigner against superstition. In March 2012, following his exposure of a supposed miracle at a Catholic Church in Mumbai as nothing more than the result of a leak, a complaint was lodged against Sanal Edamaruku by local Catholic organisations with the Mumbai police, who are now able to arrest him. He has been denied 'anticipatory' bail which means if arrested he faces a long term in prison merely for explaining the science behind an apparent mystery. 

Sanal Edamaruku, President of the Indian Rationalist Association, has for decades been a tireless campaigner for science and against superstition. He is widely known for his exposure of the tricks used by self-professed ‘God-Men’ and gurus and has often been on Indian television explaining the everyday science behind supposed miracles.

After one such exposure – he pointed out that "miraculous" water dripping from a statue of Christ at the Catholic Church of Our Lady of Velan Kanni in Vile Parle, Mumbai in fact originated from a leaky pipe – Mr Edamaruku was widely condemned by the Catholic authorities in Mumbai, with the Auxiliary Bishop of Bombay, Agnelo Rufino Gracias calling on him to apologise for "hurting" the Catholic community. Formal complaints about Mr Edamaruku were then made to the Mumbai police by three local Catholic groups, the Catholic Secular Forum, the Association of Concerned Catholics and the Maharashtra Christian Youth Forum.

He stands accused of “deliberately hurting religious feelings and attempting malicious acts intended to outrage the religious sentiments of any class or community”, an offence under Section 295(a) of the Indian Penal Code. No arrest warrant has been issued but the case is "cognisable" meaning the police can arrest without warrant at any time. He is being harassed daily by the Mumbai authorities who, under pressure from Catholic groups, are insisting that he turn himself in. His petition for “anticipatory bail” was turned down on 3 June 2012  on the bizarre grounds that he would be safer in custody. If he is arrested he will therefore most likely be detained in jail until court proceedings are concluded, which could take several years. Fearing arrest, he dares not stay long at home or work.

India has long suffered sectarian hatred and violence and section 295(a) is designed to prevent speech being used to foment hatred and disorder. It is not designed to enable a powerful religious institution to silence those whose message it finds embarrassing. India’s constitution explicitly protects free speech: article 19(a) guarantees the right to free speech and expression and clause 13(2) forbids the state to pass laws which take away or abridge such rights. It follows that the courts of India are required to interpret the Penal Code so as to protect free speech. Mr Edamaruku would be happy to answer his accusers in court, confident that the Indian justice system will vindicate him. However the threat of peremptory imprisonment for an undefined period is a very serious one.

We call on the Catholic authorities in Mumbai, particularly the Archbishop and Auxiliary Bishop of Mumbai, to clarify their Church's position on the attempts to silence Mr Edamaruku's criticisms through legal channels, and ask them to use their influence with local Catholics to encourage them to publicly withdraw their complaints.

We call also on the Vatican and the global Catholic community to make known their opposition to the conduct of the Catholic Secular Forum, the Association of Concerned Catholics and the Maharashtra Christian Youth Forum .

Finally we call on the government of India, the world’s largest democracy, to defend free speech by making it clear that their laws are not to be used to suppress scientific knowledge and reasonable criticism of religious mysticism. We ask them to intercede to ensure this matter is settled without further harassment of a courageous and honest man.

[This petition was amended at 15:10 on Friday 8 June 2012 to clarify the fact that, at present, the complaints against Mr Edamaruku are believed to have originated with the Catholic Secular Forum, the Association of Concerned Catholics and the Maharashtra Christian Youth Forum, and not directly from the Archdiocese of Bombay]

Recent signatures

    News

    1. Reached 12,500 signatures
    2. Charges not withdrawn, but Sanal is on the road and fighting back

      Sanal is still facing charges in India and still unable to return home. He's currently in Europe. He will be visiting England in November and we are planing an event in London to publicise his case. Stay tuned. He much appreciates all your support.

    3. Reached 10,000 signatures
    4. Situation getting worse for Sanal

      The latest from Sanal is not good news.

      In the last two days police have turned up at his home in Delhi twice with an arrest warrant. He is currently in Europe (at an undisclosed location) but is worried that the Indian authorities will insist he returns to India to face the charges.

      His appeal for anticipatory bail, which he took to the high court in Mumbai having been turned down in a lower court, has been tossed out again (the higher court insists it goes through the lower courts first), which means arrest will lead to certain imprisonment for an indeterminate period.

      We are striving to keep up the pressure - please share the petition, and stay tuned for more updates.

    5. Reached 6,000 signatures
    6. Sanal safe for now in Helsinki

      Sanal has just informed us that he has arrived safely in Helsinki. For the first time in several months, he says, he can "breathe freely". He will be able to rest and recharge his batteries, but he is by no means giving up his fight - and urges us to keep up the pressure on the Catholic Church to get the complaints withdrawn. He has filed for "anticipatory bail" with the High Court - a ruling expected early this week (week of 18/06/12). If this is granted then he will be able to return to India knowing he will not face time in jail. Then he can concentrate on refuting this unfounded and unconstitutional charge.

    7. Latest from Sanal: Keeping up the fight on all fronts

      The Rationalist Association has been in touch with Sanal – he really appreciates your support.
      He is currently staying away from home and work in Delhi, and his lawyers are getting daily phonecalls from the Mumbai police telling him to turn himself in. Sanal would be only too happy to comply - and face down the ridiculous complaints - if it were not for the fact that he has been refused anticipatory bail, meaning he would have to stay in jail indefinitely. This is why the petition is aimed at getting the complaints dropped, rather than at changing the 'blasphemy' law. However Sanal has plans to address this issue too.
      His lawyers are busy filing three separate cases: an application to the Mumbai High Court for anticipatory bail, and to have the case thrown out. And they are preparing a case to go before the Constitutional bench of the Supreme Court of India to remove article 295(a) of the Indian Penal Code, a relic from 1860, as it is against free speech.
      Stay tuned.

    8. Reached 5,000 signatures

    Supporters

    Reasons for signing

    • Shravan Varma MUMBAI, INDIA
      • 9 months ago

      One man's ego should not stand in the way of truth. Sanal tried to explain the reason for the 'weeping', that is no crime.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Paul Suffield LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM
      • 9 months ago

      I oppose the archbishop's hate-mongering because intolerant religion is equally as evil as religious intolerance. Surely IF there is a god, then the DIVINE GIFT OF REASON is the path to it - not the blind faith and irrational superstitions of fanatical religious fascists!

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • RaviShankar Prasad HYDERABAD, INDIA
      • 10 months ago

      Because it is important for the progress of my country and people, to rise through such irrational commandments ..

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Larry Palm OUSTIN, TN
      • 10 months ago

      Because all superstitious nonsense should be exposed as the idiocy which it is.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Keith Johnson WEST CHESTER, PA
      • about 1 year ago

      (1) Freedom of speech is more important than hurt religious feelings; (2) the promotion of rationality is more important than protecting the hurt feelings of those who choose to hold irrational beliefs; (3) the power of those who promote falsehoods should not be enhanced at the expense of those who promote truth.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:

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