The Madhya Pradesh high court on Thursday rejected the bail plea of stand-up comedian Munawar Faruqui in a case against him for allegedly passing indecent remarks against Hindu deities, and observed that it was the constitutional duty of every citizen and the states to promote harmony among people irrespective of the diversities.
Justice Rohit Arya of the Indore bench of the high court also turned down the bail application of Nalin Yadav, another accused in the case.
The single-bench had on Monday reserved the order on their bail pleas.
Police had arrested Faruquand four others on January 1 following a complaint by a Bharatiya Janata Party MLA's son that objectionable remarks were made by him and others about Hindu deities during a comedy show at a caf in Indore.
One more person was arrested later.
Faruqui and Yadav are currently lodged in Indore Central Jail.
A magistrate court and a sessions court had earlier rejected their bail pleas.
In its order passed on Thursday, the court, while dismissing the bail pleas, said it refrains from commenting upon the contentions of the parties touching on merits, but based on the material seized, the statement of the witnesses and considering that the investigation is in progress, no case is made out for grant of bail.
"The observations, if any, made in the order on facts are only for the purpose of deciding these bail applications and shall have no bearing on pending trial," the order said.
While dismissing the bail plea, the judge ruled, "This court has carefully perused the case diary. The statements of witnesses recorded under section 161 CrPC, particularly the statements of the complainant Eklavya Singh Gaud and witness Kunal."
"Emphasis laid on some portions of the statements by the learned public prosecutor have already been reproduced in the form of his contention," it said.
"The evidence/material collected so far suggests that in an organized public show under the garb of standup comedy at a public place on commercial lines, prima facie, scurrilous, disparaging utterances, outraging religious feelings of a class of citizens of India with deliberate intendment, were made by the applicant," it said.
The ruling also pointed out that the counsel for the applicant tried to submit that the applicant, Faruqui, came on an invitation from the organisers of the comedy show and though present on the spot at the show, did not utter anything as alleged.
"In the light of the statements of the complainant and the witnesses referred above, the seized articles, viz, video footage of the show and the seizure memos detailed above, at this stage it is difficult to countenance to the submissions of the learned counsel for the applicant as complacency of the applicant cannot be ruled out, besides vulnerability of his acts in public domain. It is not a case of no evidence. More so, the investigation is in progress," it said.
"The possibility of collection of more incriminating material and complacency of other persons cannot also be ruled out. Further, it has come on record that a similar nature of offence has been registered against the applicant at Police Station Georgetown, Prayagraj, state of Uttar Pradesh," the order further said.
"That apart, there is also specific assertion by the counsel for the complainant that the applicant, along with other co-accused persons, allegedly making outraging filthy jokes in social media deliberately against Hindu Gods, Lord Shriram and Goddess Seeta, hurting religious sentiments of Hindus for the last 18 months, despite protest on various social media platforms. There is nothing on record to the contrary," it said.
"Before parting with the case, it is considered apposite to observe that our country is a beautiful country and sets an example of coexistence amid diversities, be it religion, language, culture, geographical locations etc, to the world at large," the order said.
"Mutual respect, faith and trust amongst all citizens of India are basic tenets of coexistence, in a welfare society governed by the principles of rule of law.
"It is the constitutional duty of every citizen of the country and also of the states to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India irrespective of religious, linguistic, regional or sectional diversities and to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture (Article 15A (e) and (f) of the Constitution of India," it said.
"States must endeavour that ecosystem and sustenance of coexistence in our welfare society is not polluted by negative forces and must strive for achievement of goals as enshrined under Article 51A(e) and (f) of the Constitution of India, in particular as these provisions are part of our vibrant Constitution and not dead letters," the order said.
According to the police, the comedy show was held at a cafe in 56 Dukan area of Indore on January 1. Eklavya Singh Gaud (36), son of local BJP MLA Malini Laxman Singh Gaud, had filed a complaint against Faruqui and others.
Gaud said that he and his associates had gone to watch the show and when they heard the "indecent" comments, they forced the organisers to stop the programme.
The complaint said that indecent remarks were passed against Hindu gods and goddesses and Union Home Minister Amit Shah during the show.
Faruqui and four others were later arrested by the police. All of them were booked under IPC sections 295-A (outraging religious feelings), 269 (unlawful or negligent act likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life) and other relevant provisions.
One more person was arrested in this connection later.