Updated: May 6, 2022 11:37:35 am
In its detailed order granting bail to Independent MP Navneet Rana and her husband MLA Ravi Rana, a special court said that while they “crossed the lines of freedom of speech and expression” in their “blameworthy” statements against Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, mere expression of derogatory or objectionable words is not a sufficient ground to invoke sedition under provisions of Section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code. The court also said that political leaders play an important role in facilitating peace and tranquillity and hence have greater responsibility.
The Rana couple was granted bail on Wednesday. The detailed 17-page order was made available on Friday. They were arrested on April 23 after their announcement to chant Hanuman Chalisa at the chief minister’s private residence. While the couple submitted that their announcement was to enlist public support, the Mumbai police had said that their intention was to cause public disorder and challenge law and order in the state to an extent that dissolution of the present government could be recommended.
Special judge R N Rokade, presiding over the special court for trial of criminal cases against MPs and MLAs in Mumbai, said in his order that prima facie, “decisive ingredients of section 124A of the IPC are not made out at this stage”.
“It is pertinent to note on perusal of the FIR, it is not the case of the prosecution that the said announcement was made with an intention to incite people to create disorder by acts of violence. The said announcement does not in any manner have the tendency of subverting the government by violent means, nor does the same have the effect of creating hatred, disaffection or contempt of the government,” the court said.
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It added that the transcripts of the couple’s interviews to the media prima facie show that they used certain expressions and sentences against the CM which are “extremely objectionable”.
“It is to be noted here that political leaders play an important role in facilitating peace and tranquillity. Their vitality is appreciated due to the fact that they have followers, people who believe in what they say and act accordingly. Therefore, politicians and other public figures have greater responsibility. The impact of political speech is also greater because politicians are in a position of authority. Undoubtedly, the applicants have crossed the lines of freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under the Constitution of India. However, mere expression of derogatory or objectionable words, may not be a sufficient ground for invoking the provisions contained in Section 124A of IPC,” the court said.
It said that provisions of the section would apply only when written and spoken words have the tendency or intention to create disorder or disturbance of peace by resorting to violence.
“Therefore, though the statements and acts of applicants are blameworthy, the same cannot be stretched too far to bring within the ambit of Section 124A of the IPC,” the court said. It said that the Rana couple had withdrawn their plan to chant Hanuman Chalisa at the residence of the chief minister before the FIR was filed.
“It may be noted that neither the applicants called anyone to bear arms nor any violence was incited in general as a result of the speech delivered by the applicants. In this view of the matter, I am of the considered view that prima facie, decisive ingredients of Section 124A of the IPC are not made out at this stage,” the court said.
The court said that the apprehensions of the prosecution can be dealt with by setting stringent conditions on the couple for the release. The conditions included that they shall not address the press on any of the subjects related to the case, make themselves available for investigation and not commit a similar offence while on bail. The couple was released on Thursday.
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