The Allahabad High Court recently opined that burning the effigy of a living person prima facie does not amount to organising a mock funeral, which is an offence under Section 6 of the United Provinces Special Powers Act, 1932.
Justice JJ Munir observed, “Prima facie burning an effigy of a living person even if caricatured is not a punishable offence under the Act, the purpose of which in the day of its enactment was to curtail freedom fighters and those sharing their dream of a free India from instigating others to refuse payment of Government taxes and revenues as the object of the Act and its scheme would suggest.”
The case relates to a BJP protest in November 2014, when 20 party workers allegedly blocked a road in Etah district and burnt the effigy of the then Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. An FIR was then lodged against them on a complaint filed by one Darmendra Singh Yadav.
The Court was now hearing an application filed under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure by the accused, alleging that the police had conducted an “unfair, biased, motivated and one-sided investigation” against them. They had contended that the charge-sheet, which was filed without recording the statements of the accused or their witnesses, is a “nullity in the eye of law”.
Mr. Dharm Vir Singh, Counsel representing the accused, had further made reference to the provision, and had asserted that “to burn an ordinary effigy in a standing position no way resembles any ceremony associated with or consequent upon death so as to attract the provisions of Section 6”.
The Court agreed with these contentions and observed, “This Court has given an anxious consideration to the matter and finds prima facie that no offence under Section 6 of the Act, 1932 is made out, inasmuch as, what is made punishable under Section 6 is participation in a mock funeral ceremony or abetment thereof.”
It also expressed dissatisfaction with the investigation conducted so far and opined that the question of limitation is also “prima face debatable”.
The Bench, therefore, stayed the criminal proceedings against the applicants, while issuing a notice to the complainant.