Hitting back at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for filing a criminal defamation complaint against him, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Saturday said the move was an attempt to "throttle the freedom of expression".
Earlier in the day, Delhi BJP leader Rajeev Babbar filed the complaint against Tharoor's alleged "scorpion" remark against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said his religious sentiments were hurt by the statement.
Speaking at Bangalore Literature Festival on Sunday, Tharoor had claimed that an unnamed RSS leader had compared Modi to "a scorpion sitting on a Shivling".
Delhi BJP leader Rajeev Babbar, who filed the complaint, claimed that his religious sentiments were hurt by Tharoor’s statement. Babbar also dubbed the ‘Scorpion on Shivling’ statement an "intolerable abuse" and "absolute vilification" of the faith of millions of people.
"I am a devotee of Lord Shiva... However, the accused (Tharoor) completely disregarded the sentiments of crores of Shiva's devotees, made the statement which hurt the sentiments of all the Lord Shiva devotees, both in India and outside the country," the complaint read.
"The complainant's religious sentiments were hurt and accused deliberately did this malicious act, intending to outrage religious feeling of Lord Shiva devotees by insulting their religious belief," it added.
The complaint was filed under section 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which deals with cases related to defamation.
The Delhi court has adjourned the hearing and posted the matter for further hearing on November 16.
Reacting to it, Tharoor told reporters: "The charges are frivolous ... If we start to stifle the right of the people to quote published material then where would our democracy head?... Where is the freedom of expression?"
Asked whether he felt the criminal defamation suit against him "is an attempt to throttle his voice", Tharoor said, "Apparently it seems so".
(With PTI inputs)