The sessions court, Wednesday, extended the interim protection from arrest to former Awadhnama editor Shirin Dalvi who was accused for “outraging religious sentiments” after she published French magazine Charlie Hebdo’s cover picture ‘Je Suis Charlie’ on her newspaper’s front page.
Dalvi has now been granted protection from arrest till February 10 amidst arguments by the public prosecutor that granting her bail “will create law and order situation as members of Muslim community are outraged”.
Dalvi in her pre-arrest bail plea said, “The article (that resulted in filing of FIR against her in N M Joshi Marg police station) is absolutely non-defamatory and does not effect or hurt religious sentiments or create any religious outburst as alleged.” Her application also said that an unconditional apology was published in the newspaper on January 18, a day after she published the cartoon.
The N M Joshi police station, however, strongly opposed Dalvi’s bail appeal, with the police prosecutor asking for the need to complete the inquiry.
“We haven’t been able to record her statements yet. We were opposed to Dalvi getting bail because we want to question her and collect evidence and finish our inquiry in the matter,” Inspector Rajendra Nikam of the N M Joshi police station told the Newsline.
In the last fortnight, Dalvi has six FIRs registered against her — in Mumbai, Thane and Malegaon. On January 17, she had printed the French magazine’s cover photo, which allegedly depicted Prophet Mohammad, along with a news item about Pope’s preaching. The same day advocate Zubair Azmi filed an FIR against her in Thane. Later, a series of FIRs were registered against her across the city.
According to Dalvi’s advocate Murtuza Nasbi, the complaint is “absolutely vague and without any substance”, and intentional to gain publicity. He also claimed that the matter is of civil nature and she, in her official capacity, has only exercised her fundamental right.
Public prosecutor Mohan Savant, however, argued that granting bail to her will lead to law and order situation as members of Muslim community are outraged at the reproduction of a cartoon published by the French magazine. He said she deliberately published those cartoons to provoke Muslim sentiments.
“Members of the Muslim community have already broken down the news paper’s office and could lead to further problems if they let her go. The police is constantly being questioned by the complainants regarding the status of the application,” Sawant said. The publisher and printer of the Urdu daily, who were present in the sessions court, were granted interim bail till February 10.
On Wednesday, Dalvi released a press statement saying: “I am an underground citizen of India”, adding that her son and daughter have been forced to skip college following the protest outside her house and office in Mumbra. She is currently seeking refuge at her friend’s house while her children are residing with relatives.
Over a dozen advocates, NGO ‘Hum Azaadiyon Ke Haq Mein’ and women activists, including Javed Anand, general secretary of Muslim for Democracy, and advocate Irfan Engineer, director of Center for Study of Society and Secularism, extended their support to Dalvi on Wednesday demanding that “she be provided necessary protection”. In a statement issued collectively by them, they claimed her front page apology for the cartoon on January 18 in Awadhnama must be accepted.
Dalvi, however, told the Newsline that she has not approached the police for any sort of protection yet. “I am running from one police station to another for my bail application. Getting protection is secondary issue right now,” she said.
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