In a relief to TV news anchor Amish Devgan, the Supreme Court Friday protected him from any coercive action in pending and future first information reports which may be lodged over his alleged defamatory comment against Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti in a show telecast on June 15.
Presently, five FIRs have been lodged against Devgan in Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Telangana for using the term 'Lootera Chisti' for the Sufi saint in the news debate show called 'Aar Paar' on his channel.
However, he later tweeted an apology saying that he was actually referring to Muslim ruler Alauddin Khilji and inadvertently ended up naming Chisti.
A bench comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari took note of the submissions of senior lawyer Siddharth Luthra and advocate Mrinal Bharti and also stayed the pending or future probes in the case against the journalist by police agencies till July 8, the next date of hearing.
'As regards the interim relief, till the next date of hearing, we deem it appropriate to pass ad interim relief in terms of prayer clause (A) and (B) (which seek stay of investigation in pending and future FIRs and the protection from possible coercive action),' the top court said in the order.
Issuing notices to Maharashtra, Telangana and Rajasthan, the bench asked the lawyers for the journalist to make the complainants, who have lodged FIRs, as parties to his petition and sought their responses as well by July 8.
The top court also granted liberty to one of the complainants, represented through lawyer Rizwan Merchant, to file the 'link of original broadcast within one week from today'.
Two FIRs for the alleged offence have been registered at Ajmer and Kota in Rajasthan and one has been lodged at Bahadurpura in Hyderabad, the plea said, adding that two such FIRs have been lodged at Nanded and Pydhonie in Maharashtra.
During the brief hearing via video-conferencing, Luthra said the journalist has already issued a clarification through a tweet and moreover, errors cannot be construed as criminal offences.
The petition, filed through lawyer Mrinal Bharti, said that the plea concerned the life and liberty of the journalist.
'In a well-orchestrated manner -- the Petitioner has been made a victim of country wide filing of false and baseless Criminal Complaint and FIRs on one hand and on the other hand Petitioner, his family and his crew has been abused unabashedly on the social media and by personal messages by unknown persons. The Petitioner has also received several death threats from various anti-social elements,' the plea said.
It said that Devgan was holding a discussion on a petition filed before the top court on his show on June 15 on the issue of the Places of Worship Special Provisions Act.
'During the course of the live heated discussion one of the panelists quoted 'Chisti' (Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti) and inadvertently, Petitioner (Devgan) who wanted to refer to the historical figure 'Khilji' (Alauddin Khilji) as a marauder, mentioned the name 'Chisti',' the plea said.
'That immediately on realising his inadvertent slip of tongue during heated debate in his news debate show, petitioner tendered a clarification and clarified that the name 'Chisti' was mentioned by error and inadvertently,' it said.
Devgan tweeted the clarification on his personal twitter account on the intervening night of June 16-17 and moreover, the channel carried video clarification featuring the journalist, the plea said.
One of the FIRs was lodged at Pydhonie police station in Mumbai against Devgan for allegedly hurting religious sentiments by referring to saint Chisti in derogatory terms in the TV programme on the complaint of Arif Razvi, general secretary of Raza Academy.