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Tandav row: Bail plea of Aparna Purohit junked, Allahabad HC says duty to respect other faiths

The court said that even while making a fictional show, it is the duty “of every citizen to respect the feelings of the people of other faith...”

Written by Asad Rehman | Lucknow |
Updated: February 26, 2021 7:39:57 am
tandav series controversyTandav is streaming on Prime Video. (Photo: Prime Video/Twitter)

The Allahabad High Court on Thursday rejected the anticipatory bail plea of Aparna Purohit, the India content chief of Amazon Prime Video, who has been booked in 10 FIRs across the country for hurting religious sentiments by streaming the web series Tandav.

The anticipatory bail plea by Purohit was filed in connection with a case lodged in Greater Noida against her and six others under IPC provisions relating to promoting enmity between different groups and intending to outrage religious feelings among others.

Rejecting her plea, a single-judge bench of Justice Sidharth said: “…the fact remains that the applicant had not been vigilant and has acted irresponsibly making her open to criminal prosecution in permitting streaming of a movie which is against the fundamental rights of the majority of citizens of this country and therefore, her fundamental right of life and liberty cannot be protected by grant of anticipatory bail to her in the exercise of discretionary powers of this court.”

The court said that even while making a fictional show, it is the duty “of every citizen to respect the feelings of the people of other faith…”

“The irresponsible conduct against the inherent mandate of the Constitution of India by anyone affecting the fundamental rights of the large number of citizens cannot be acquiesced to only because of the tendering of unconditional apology after committing the alleged act of crime and indiscretion,” said the court order.

It said that the reference to the disclaimer about the show being fictional “cannot be considered to be a ground for absolving the applicant of permitting the streaming of an objectionable movie online”.

On the title of the show, the order said, “The use of the word ‘Tandav’ as the name of the movie can be offensive to the majority of the people of this country since this word is associated with a particular act assigned to Lord Shiva who is considered to be creator, conservator and destroyer of the mankind all together.”

On the petitioner’s plea that some scenes were removed and unconditional apology was submitted, it said, “The aforesaid scene portrayed Sage Narad, Lord Bholenath and Lord Ram as the characters of a play. Devakinandan is also the character talking to another character Kailash. Both these names are of Lord Krishna and Lord Shiva. These characters are part of religious faith of the majority community of India and their use by filmmakers in offensive way is bound to hurt the sentiments of the majority community of the country.”

The court said withdrawal of the scene and submission of apology after it was streamed “would not absolve the accused persons of the offence committed by them”.

“…the public blowing whistles and claps shows that the esteemed and revered characters of the faith of the majority community of India
have been lampooned and portrayed in a very cheap and objectionable way,” said the order.

It said that “the dialogue between the two Hindu Gods in episode 1 is shown in a very insidious manner”. “Devakinandan is abusing the man of lower caste working as a cobbler. Comment has been made regarding grant of reservation to Scheduled Castes,” it said.

The court spoke of the Chicago Address of Swami Vivekananda in 1893 and said, “…he said that the goal of all the religions is the same. All the religions are like different rivers having different paths but all merge in the same ocean which is the ultimate truth or God. Therefore, sectarianism, bigotry and fanaticism have to be done away with.”

It said that respect for all religions was the intention of the framers of the Constitution of India and hence, every citizen has been granted liberty to practice, profess and propagate his or her religion. “However, it is fundamental duty of every citizen under Article 51A(e) to promote harmony and spread common brotherhood amongst all the people of India,” said the court.

It said that in the present case the disputed scenes “are likely to cause disturbance and threats to public order”.

“The reference to Hindu Gods and Godesses in the scenes in dispute in berating light cannot be justified. The advice of Sage Narad to Lord Shiva to make some inflammatory tweet on the Twitter like all the students of the campus becoming traitors and raising slogans of freedom clearly alludes to the incidents which took place in Jawaharlal Nehru University and therefore, it can be considered to be a message of hate advanced through the movie,” it said.

The court took notice “of the fact that whenever such crimes are committed by some citizens of the country”, like the one allegedly committed by Purohit and her colleagues, “then forces inimical to the interest of this country become active” and protest against it on different national and international forums “alleging that the Indian citizens have become intolerant and ‘India’ has become unsafe place to live”.

It said Indian diplomacy has to face a difficult time protecting the interest of the country and assuring the international community that the protests made against such acts are “stray” and “not mark of any intolerance in the country as a whole”.

“Western filmmakers have refrained from ridiculing Lord Jesus or the Prophet but Hindi filmmakers have done this repeatedly and still doing this most unabashedly with the Hindu Gods and Godesses,” said the order.

The court also mentioned comedian Munawar Faruqui. It said said “things are worsening as is evident from the fact that an obscure stand-up comedian, Munawar Faruqui, from Gujarat made comments on Hindu God and Godesses in a new year show at Indore and gained undue publicity on being arrested in a case”. “This shows that from films this trend has passed to comedy shows,” it said.

The court also took notice of films in the past “which have used the name of Hindu Gods and Goddesses and shown them in disrespectful manner”. It listed films such as Ram Teri Ganga Maili, Satyam Shivam Sundram, P.K. and Oh My God and also said that
“efforts have been made to subvert the image of historical and mythological personalities (Padmavati)”.

“The young generation of the country, which is not much aware of the social and cultural heritage of this country, gradually starts believing what is shown in the movies by the people like the accused persons in the present movie in dispute and thereby, it destroys the basic concept of the survival of this country having tremendous diversity of all kinds as a united nation,” said the court.

“On the one hand, the sentiments of majority community have been hurt by display of the characters of their faith in disrespectful manner and on the other hand, an attempt has been made to widen the gap between the higher castes and the Scheduled Castes…” said the order.

The court also said Purohit was granted interim protection from arrest on February 11 by the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court,
“but she was not co-operating with the investigation”.

“…this conduct of the applicant shows that she has scant respect for the law of the land and her conduct further disentitles her to any
relief from this court, since co-operation with investigation is a necessary condition for grant of anticipatory bail,” it said.

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