April 11, 2021 2:38:39 am
The High Court of Bombay at Goa has scathingly quashed a 2019 FIR filed against members of a rock band for allegedly insulting religious sentiments, pulling up the police for “abuse” of the legal process in their handling of the case.
A bench of Justices M S Sonak and M S Jawalkar observed: “This was indeed the abuse of the process, because, it is apparent that the Police authorities have not even taken cognizance of the legal position explaining the scope of section 295-A of IPC by the Constitution Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court…”
Section 295-A deals with “deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs”.
The band, Dastaan Live, had performed at the Serendipity Arts Festival in Panaji on December 17, 2019. A day later, a Delhi-based advocate, K Venkat Krishna, filed a complaint alleging that the hand had committed “blasphemy” and hurt the “sentiment of hundred crores of India and few million abroad”.
Based on the complaint, the band members were called to Panaji Police Station and asked to issue an apology. Four of them—Anirban Ghosh, Sumant Balakrishnan,Nirmala Ravindran and Shiva Pathak—were placed under arrest.
On Friday, hearing petitions by nine artistes who sought the quashing of the FIR, the judges observed: “According to us, the Police authorities cannot call citizens to the Police Station and demand apologies of this nature. As if that was not sufficient, the Police placed some of the Petitioners under arrest in the late evening of 18.12.2019, thereby forcing them to seek bail. Some of the other Petitioners had to secure anticipatory bail to avoid physical arrest.”
Krishna’s complaint to the Panaji Police Station stated: “….we found a narrative being set up against the government in power and trying to play victim card. As opinion maker myself I felt they were opining on government but to surprise they began chanting ‘OM’ a symbol of my faith in negative narrative and ultimately abusing people chanting the OM and following to Hindu stream has Ullu ke patta (sic),” Krishna had stated in his complaint, a copy of which was also marked to the Goa Chief Minister and the Union Home Minister.
The petitioners contended that the FIR was “driven by political interest” to damage the band’s reputation and to curb free speech and artistic intent. They said that they had only performed “Mantra Kavita” by two-time Sahitya Academy Award winner Vaidyanath Misra, widely known as Baba Nagarjun, which was composed in 1969. They submitted the entire text of the composition to the court.
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