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Hanuman Chalisa row: Lawmaker couple hit with sedition charge

The Mumbai police had demanded police custody which was rejected by the court.

Written by Vallabh Ozarkar | Mumbai |
Updated: April 25, 2022 10:02:37 am
MLA Ravi Rana and his MP wife Navneet Rana leave Santacruz Police Station for court on Sunday. (Photo: PTI)

A day after Independent lamaker couple Navneet and Ravi Rana were arrested in connection with the Hanuman Chalisa controversy, the Maharashtra government Sunday invoked the sedition law against them.

The Bandra Metropolitan Magistrate Court in Mumbai Sunday sent Navneet, who is an MP, and Ravi, an MLA, to judicial custody for 14 days, rejecting the police’s plea for custody.

At the court, Special Public Prosecutor Pradeep Gharat said: “Section 124A (sedition) has been invoked against them for the hate and dislike that they invoked against the government and the Chief Minister and the way they have challenged the writ of the state machinery.”

The couple was arrested Saturday night after they announced they would recite the Hanuman Chalisa outside Uddhav Thackeray’s residence, triggering protests in the city — and outside their residence — by Shiv Sainiks. It was MNS chief Raj Thackeray who had initially called for Hanuman Chalisa recitals in public if mosques used loudspeakers for azaan.

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Police said an FIR under multiple Sections of the IPC — including 124A and 153A (promoting enmity) — and the Bombay Police Act was filed against the lawmaker couple. They also face another FIR under IPC Section 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty).

The Khar Police has booked unknown persons for gathering in front of the Rana house and breaking police barricades on Saturday. Sixteen people have been held in this regard, said a police officer.

Meanwhile, Rizwan Merchant, the lawyer of the Ranas, filed a bail application in the Bandra court Sunday. The court scheduled the hearing for April 29, giving time to the Mumbai police to respond by April 27.

Navneet was sent to Byculla women’s jail. Ravi was sent to Taloja prison.

Police, in their remand application, cited Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the city while asking for maximum custody. They said it has to be investigated whether there was “any big plot or conspiracy of the couple or others to create any major law and order situation in Kalanagar area, Mumbai or all over Maharashtra”.

They also said the couple had created a communal rift and destablised law and order amid the demand by political parties for removal of loudspeakers from mosques.

The Ranas’ lawyer opposed the custody, calling the arrest illegal and questioned the basis on which Section 124A(sedition) was invoked.

“The only content of the remand application is that they had prepared to come here for the purpose of chanting Hanuman Chalisa. We argued before the court that Hanuman chalisa is nothing but a praise of lord Ram and praise of Lord Hanuman go hand-in-hand. So if there is a particular chanting which is done in presence of another religion, then he may be justified in saying that the offence under 153A has been committed,” said Merchant.

Meanwhile, BJP leader Kirit Somaiya who was allegedly attacked by Shiv Sena workers at the Khar Road police station on Saturday night filed a police complaint. But he claimed that police did not invoke the proper sections in the FIR and had also booked his driver.

Somaiya said he would go to New Delhi along with a delegation of BJP MLAs on Monday to complain to the Union Home Secretary on the matter.

The alleged attack took place when Somaiya visited the Khar Police Station after the couple’s arrest.

On Friday, another BJP leader, Mohit Kamboj, was allegedly attacked.

The police Sunday booked one Rupesh Kadam and other Shiv Sainiks for the alleged attack near the CM’s residence, Matoshree. The FIR has been registered under the relevant sections of Indian Penal Code for attempted murder,  rioting, unlawful assembly, criminal Intimidation and sections of Maharashtra police act.

Earlier, Navneet, the MP from Badnera in Amravati district and her MLA husband Ravi had announced in Amravati that they would come to the CM’s residence, to recite Hanuman Chalisa on Saturday morning. They then arrived in Mumbai on April 22.

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