The Supreme Court on Wednesday on Wednesday adjourned the plea seeking quashing of FIRs against Journalist Amish Devgan for making derogatory remarks against Sufi Saint Moinuddin Chishti due to pleadings being incomplete.
A bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari & Sanjiv Khanna sought the response of all parties within a week, including the de facto complainants.
One of the de facto Complainant's who had filed the FIR against Devgan refused to accept service and the bench stated that the said Respondent shall be "deemed to be served" and that the bench shall proceed ex parte.
"As per the office report dated 14.07.2020, respondent No. 7 has refused to accept service. In that case, it must be treated as deemed to be served and matter proceeded ex-parte against Respondent No. 7, if he does not wish to appear on future dates. Matter will now be considered on August 6"
Further to this, one other complainant who had been served via whatsapp as well as speed post did not appear before the bench. In light of this, the Court noted that this can "also be treated as good service and matter be proceeded against respondent No. 8 ex-parte, if he fails to appear on future dates".
The case has been listed for further consideration on August 5.
Last week, the bench had allowed the Petitioners to serve copies on the de facto complainants who had not been served and directed the Union and other respondents to file a reply in two week. The Petitioner can file rejoinder thereafter.
On June 26, the Top Court had stayed till the next date of hearing, investigation and coercive action against News18 anchor Amish Devgan on the multiple FIRs registered against him over his remarks on Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti.
A vacation bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna had issued notice on his writ petition seeking quashing of the FIRs and asked him to implead all the defacto complainants.
Senior Advocate Siddharth Luthra, appearing for Devgan, submitted that his client had made an "inadvertent error" during his show for which he later issued public apology. Lodging of FIRs against the journalist for a "slip of tongue" is unjust and amounts to undue harassment, he submitted.
"If this starts happening, where people are dealt with for slip of the tongue, what will happen? Errors people make. He has also profusely apologised", Luthra had submitted.
He said that multiple FIRs have been registered in Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Telangana against Devgan and that it would cause grave prejudice to him if he is asked to appear in different places across the country in connection with the FIRs. His family members are also being threatened and harassed, Luthra said.
Advocate Rizwan Merchant, appearing for two complainants from Maharashtra, submitted that Devgan used the term "lootera Chishti" more than once during his show.
While hosting a debate on June 15 on PIL's regarding the Place of Worship Special Provision Act on his show 'Aar Par', Amish had called Khwaja Moinuddin Chisthi, better known as Khwaja Ghreeb Nawaz, an "attacker" and "looter".
Following that, several police complaints and FIRs were registered against the anchor across the country.
Devgan's petition filed through Advocate Vivek Jain seeks quashing of the FIRs which have invoked sections 295A (Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), 153A (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc, and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), 505 (Statements conducing to public mischief) and 34 (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Devgan had also profusely apologised for referring to the Sufi Saint as a "lootera" and called it an "inadvertent error".
His tweet of apology read:
"In 1 of my debates,I inadvertently referred to 'Khilji' as Chishti. I sincerely apologise for this grave error and the anguish it may hv caused to followers of the Sufi saint Moinuddin Chishti, whom I revere. I have in the past sought blessings at his dargah. I regret this error"