The Bombay High Court Thursday warned the police against filing frivolous FIRs to appease communities or political parties, and asked them to ‘apply their minds’ before registering a case.
A division bench headed by Justice V M Kanade ordered the quashing of an FIR while hearing a petition filed by Dejul Shah, a 42-year-old wholesaler from Malad, who was detained by the Naupada police in 2014 for selling a pair of shoes that had the letter ‘M’ inscribed on the sole. An FIR had been registered after the complainant, who bought the shoes, approached the police stating that the letter M denoted Allah in Urdu and that it hurt his religious sentiments.
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Shah was detained, charged, and kept in police custody overnight. The police also seized goods worth lakhs from him. Shah’s lawyer Ashok Pandey told the court that the complainant had the backing of a political party and this case, registered to disturb harmony and peace, had caused Shah a lot of agony and humiliation.
“The sole of the shows had many other alphabets inscribed, how can one just take out the M and interpret it this way”, said Pandey.
While pronouncing the order, Justice Kanade said, “Article 51a dealing with Fundamental Rights was insulted. It is important to exercise restraint before making an allegation of this nature. Police should assess the situation independently. Otherwise, it will lead to rumour mongering and law and order situation. This is a clear case of non-application of mind. The petitioner did not have any intention to hurt religious beliefs.”
The state told the court, “After filing of the FIR, we consulted Urdu scholars who indicated that this alphabet did not represent Allah, after which we filed a closure report.”