New Delhi: Stand up comedian from Madhya Pradesh, Munawar Faruqui, who was in jail for over a month for allegedly “insulting Hindu Gods and Goddesses” during his show, and has been denied bail thrice earlier, has now been granted ad-interim bail from Supreme Court. The apex court, on comedian’s request, not only issued notice to the Madhya Pradesh police but also stayed the production of warrant issued in connection with another case registered against him by the Uttar Pradesh Police.
“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 two-judge bench headed by Justice Rohington Nariman ordered.
Munawar requested that the FIR (First Information Report) against him in Madhya Pradesh be cancelled, on which the top court agreed with his lawyer that procedure was not followed and that the allegations in the FIR were vague.
“The learned counsel has pointed out to us that quite apart from the fact that the allegations made in the FIR are vague that the procedure…has not been followed before arresting the petitioner. This being the case, we issue notice in both the petitions and stay the Judgment of the High Court,” said the court.
Meanwhile, Munawar’s lawyer argued that a person cannot be arrested without a magistrate’s order or a warrant, which is stated in Section 41 of the Criminal code.
“Do you say that Section 41 CrPC was not followed as per our 2014 judgment,” Justice Rohington, asked his lawyer, Saurabh Kirpal.
Advocate Kirpal said it wasn’t and his client was being harassed. He also told the SC judges-bench that a production warrant was out for Munawar Faruqui in Uttar Pradesh; the warrant was stayed.
Madhya Pradesh Minister Vishwas Sarang, reacting to the order, said, “Bail is a routine process, that doesn’t mean he is innocent. Our police has not done anything wrong. Why should anyone be allowed to make fun of Hindu Gods and Goddesses?”
The 29-year-old comedian with at least five others, is accused of hurting the religious sentiments of the Hindu community by cracking some jokes about Hindu Gods and deities. The complaint was filed by Eklavya Singh Gaur, the chief of a local Hindutva outfit, who is also the son of Bharatiya Janata Party’s MLA Malini Gaur.
Gaur had also allegedly created a ruckus at Faruqui’s show in Indore that had led to Munawar’s arrest a day after he was detained from the city’s Monroe Cafe. The accused, on the other hand, claimed in his bail plea that he had not made any statements as alleged in the criminal complaint against him.
On January 28, rejecting the bail pleas of the comedian and his co-accused Nalin Yadav, the Indore bench of the court said the evidence collected so far suggested that “outraging religious feelings of a class of citizens of India with deliberate intendment” were made by the applicants. “The evidence/material collected so far, suggest 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 applicants.”
A single-judge bench of justice Rohit Arya had observed that, “be that as it may, this Court refrains from commenting upon contentions of the parties touching on merits but, regard being had to the material seized and the statements of the witnesses and that the investigation is in progress, no case is made out for grant of bail”.
Rejecting bail applications, the High Court had observed, “There is also a specific assertion by the learned 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.”
The court had also observed that, “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 the public domain.”
The court, however, clarified that ‘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 the pending trial.”
Meanwhile, Faruqui’s arrest was called out by many fellow comedians and actors, who demanded his release. Whereas, the Indore Town Inspector (Tukaganj Police Station), Kamlesh Sharma, had earlier said that there was no evidence against the comedian, as per reports.
Munawar and five others were booked under various Sections; 295-A (outraging religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), 298 (uttering words with deliberate intent to wound religious feelings), 269 (negligent act likely to cause spread of disease), 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).