The Bombay High Court on Thursday quashed an FIR registered against a shoe manufacturer in nearby Thane city for allegedly hurting religious sentiments of a minority community observing that no case was made out against him. The order was passed by a division bench headed by Justice V M Kanade, who said in such cases police should make preliminary inquiries, probe the matter thoroughly and then register an FIR against the concerned person or parties. The court had in September stayed the criminal proceeding against the shoe manufacturer, Dejul Shah, who was arrested by Naupada police of Thane city under IPC for allegedly hurting the religious sentiments of a community.
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According to the petition, in 2014, a person named Ibrahim Sheikh had registered an FIR with Naupada police station in Thane alleging that Shah had deliberately embossed an alphabet ‘M’ on the shoe in a manner resembling the word ‘Allah’ in Urdu language. The shoemaker was booked under section 295 A IPC (hurting religious sentiments of a community). The police had summoned him immediately and started investigating the matter. After a few days, Shah was given bail by the local court. After that, the police neither investigated the matter nor filed a charge sheet in the local court. Therefore, Shah had decided to approach the high court requesting quashing of the FIR. “In this case, no offence is made out and therefore we are quashing the FIR,” said the bench. Shah argued that he had no intention to hurt the religious sentiments of any community. The artisans, who had made the shoes were Muslims and even the purchasers of his shoes belonged to the same community. Therefore, it cannot be said that he had done this intentionally to hurt members of this community, Shah’s lawyer pleaded.
Shah’s lawyer Ashok Pande argued that Shah was a small-time businessman, who made shoes and sandals locally. He ordered soles for his products from a Delhi-based manufacturer named A to Z footwear and had no idea about if the printed ‘M’ looks like the word ‘Allah’ written in Urdu. The Delhi sole manufacturer belonged to Muslim community and was also not aware of this. Police had arrested the sole manufacturer, but had let him off, he said. After hearing the arguments, the court observed that prima facie, it did not look like a deliberate act and therefore, the court quashed the FIR. The court opined that police should not conduct a probe only to appease the members of a community and that it should investigate only if an offence is prima facie made out.
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