In a relief to comedian Munawar Faruqui, arrested in a case for allegedly hurting religious sentiments by passing objectionable remarks about Hindu deities during a show, the Supreme Court on Friday released him on an interim bail.
Photograph: Munawar Faruqui/Instagram
The top court also stayed the Madhya Pradesh high court order of January 28, which had refused to grant him bail noting that to "promote harmony" is one of the constitutional duties.
It also stayed the production warrant issued against Faruqui by a trial court in Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh in connection with the FIR lodged in the state.
A bench of Justices R F Nariman and B R Gavai said issued notice on two petitions filed by Faruqui seeking bail in a case lodged in Indore in Madhya Pradesh and clubbing and quashing of FIRs lodged for the same alleged offence in different States.
The top court sought response from Madhya Pradesh government on both the pleas filed by Faruqui and from Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Maharashtra governments on the plea seeking clubbing and quashing of FIRs.
“This being the case, we issue notice in both the petitions, and stay the Judgment of the High Court. The petitioner is released on ad-interim bail on conditions to the satisfaction of the trial court. In the meantime, there shall be stay of the production warrants as well,” the bench said.
At the outset, advocate Saurabh Kirpal, appearing for Faruqui said, “This is a case of victimisation”.
He said that allegations made in the FIR are vague in nature and procedure of arrest laid down by the court in its 2014 verdict was not followed.
The bench noted the submission and said, “The counsel has pointed out to us that quite apart from the fact that the allegations made in the FIR are vague that the procedure contained in Section 41 CrPC as adumbrated by our Judgment in “Arnesh Kumar Versus State of Bihar and others” has not been followed before arresting the petitioner”.
Faruqui and four others were arrested on January 1 following a complaint by a BJP MLA's son that alleged objectionable remarks about Hindu deities and Union Home Minister Amit Shah were passed by him during a comedy show at a cafe in Indore on New Year's day. One more person was arrested subsequently.
The high court, in its order passed on January 28, had refused to grant him bail noting that to "promote harmony" is one of the constitutional duties. It had also turned down the bail plea of another accused in the case.
In its order, the high court had said it would not comment on merits of the case, but based on the material seized, the witnesses' statements and considering the fact that probe was going on, no case was made out for grant of bail.
"The evidence/material collected so far suggests that in an organized public show under the garb of stand-up 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 intent, were made by the applicant," it had said.
There was a possibility that "more incriminating material" would be collected, and further, a similar case has been registered against Faruqui in Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh, the high court had noted.
"That apart, there is also specific assertion by the counsel for the complainant that the applicant, along with other co-accused persons, (were) 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 had said.
As per the First Information Report, the comedy show was held at a cafe in 56 Dukan area of Indore on January 1.
Eklavya Singh Gaud, son of BJP MLA Malini Laxman Singh Gaud, had filed a complaint against Faruqui and others.
Gaud had said that he and his associates had gone to watch the show where alleged indecent jokes were made about Hindu gods and goddesses and Union Home Minister Amit Shah. He forced the organizers to stop the show, he had said.
Faruqui and others were arrested for the alleged offences punishable under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including section 295-A which deals with deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class.
They were also accused of holding the show amid COVID-19 pandemic without permission and were booked under other relevant provisions of the IPC.