24 April 2023 7:56 AM GMT
In a significant development in the criminal cases against Mumbai-based stand-up comedian Munawar Faruqui for allegedly hurting the sentiments of people, besides allegedly insulting union home minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Amit Shah, the Supreme Court on Monday directed the transfer of all the first information reports (FIR) lodged against him in different states to...
In a significant development in the criminal cases against Mumbai-based stand-up comedian Munawar Faruqui for allegedly hurting the sentiments of people, besides allegedly insulting union home minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Amit Shah, the Supreme Court on Monday directed the transfer of all the first information reports (FIR) lodged against him in different states to Madhya Pradesh’s Indore. Besides this, the bench also confirmed the ad-interim bail granted to Faruqui in February 2021, making it ‘absolute’ in terms of the earlier order.
“Taking into consideration the facts and circumstances, and the previous order of this Court, we are inclined to transfer all the complaints to Tukoganj police station in Indore. We further clarify that we have not considered the merits of the matter insofar as the prayer for quashing and the petitioner is at liberty to take initiate such proceedings as permitted under the law.”
A bench of Justices BR Gavai and Sanjay Karol was hearing a plea filed by Faruqui for quashing of the police complaints against him for the remarks he had made during a comedy show at a café in 56 Dukan area of Indore in January 2021. However, the bench was informed by senior advocate Vikram Chaudhari, appearing on behalf of the stand-up comedian, that the scope of the prayer would be restricted only to clubbing of the FIRs.
Chaudhari urged the bench to club the FIRs and transfer them to Mumbai or Delhi. “Not Indore or Prayagraj. There was a huge mob. There are threats to Faruqui’s safety in these cities.”
The counsel for the state of Madhya Pradesh, however, informed the bench that the complaint lodged in the national capital had not yet culminated into an FIR. “There are two online complaints and two FIRs,” she said.
Justice Karol asked, “Indore is a safe city. It is also close to Mumbai. What is the issue with transferring the FIRs to Indore?”
Vehemently opposing this suggestion, Chaudhari told the bench that the stand-up comedian had been ‘manhandled’ very badly in Indore. “There are huge security concerns, Your Lordships,” he told the bench.
“One would understand [an opposition to] Uttar Pradesh,” said Justice Karol.
Ultimately, the bench decided the transfer all the FIRs to Tikoganj police station in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. However, in a small relief to the accused, the bench, at the behest of the senior counsel, agreed to extend a stay on the production warrants issued in the cases. The bench pronounced, “The interim protection granted earlier shall continue to operate for a period of three weeks from today.” Further, the bench confirmed the ad-interim bail granted by a bench headed by Justice Rohinton Nariman, saying, “We had already granted ad interim protection. The special leave petition is disposed in terms of the said order.”
Faruqui, a resident of Gujarat and a comic, came under the public scanner in 2021 after his alleged remarks about Hindu deities and the union home minister, which certain sections have claimed were derogatory, went viral. These statements were allegedly made as a part of his set during a stand-up comedy show in Madhya Pradesh’s Indore. Faruqui and four others were arrested the very next day by the state police, on the strength of a complaint filed by one Eklavya Singh Gaud, son of BJP legislator, Malini Laxman Gaud. They were booked for offences punishable under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, including section 295-A which deals with deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage the religious feelings of any class. Subsequent to this, several complaints and FIRs were lodged against Faruqui in different states, including Uttar Pradesh’s Prayagraj (formerly Allahabad).
Later that month, the Indore bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court denied the bail applications of Faruqui and one other, noting that promoting harmony was one of the constitutional duties of citizens of the country. While clarifying that it was not commenting on the merits of the case, a single judge bench of Justice Rohit Arya held that the material collected prima facie suggested the commission of the offence.
However, when the matter travelled in appeal to the Supreme Court, a bench led by former judge Rohinton Nariman suspended the decision of the Madhya Pradesh High Court and ordered the release of the embattled stand-up comedian, granting him ad-interim bail. Senior advocate Saurabh Kirpal, appearing on behalf of Faruqui, had pointed out that not only were the allegations made in the FIR vague, but the Arnesh Kumar guidelines relating to arrests made by the police without warrants under Section 41 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 had not been followed. The bench pronounced, “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.” Further, the top court also decided to stay the production warrant issued in the case lodged by the Uttar Pradesh police.
Munawar v. State of Madhya Pradesh & Ors. | Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 62 of 2021
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