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No bail for Munawar, HC points to evidence of ‘disparaging’ remarks

Faruqui was arrested in Indore on January 1 following a complaint by Eklavya Singh Gaur, the son of BJP MLA Malini Singh Gaur and convenor of local outfit Hindu Rakshak, that the comedian allegedly hurt Hindu religious sentiments during a comedy show at a popular cafe that day.

Written by Iram Siddique | Bhopal |
January 29, 2021 4:43:13 am
No bail for Munawar, HC points to evidence of ‘disparaging’ remarksStand-up comic Munawar Faruqui.

The Madhya Pradesh High Court Thursday rejected the bail application of comedian Munawar Faruqui while observing that the evidence suggests he made “scurrilous, disparaging utterances… outraging religious feelings of a class of citizens of India with deliberate” intention “under the garb of stand-up comedy”.

Faruqui was arrested in Indore on January 1 following a complaint by Eklavya Singh Gaur, the son of BJP MLA Malini Singh Gaur and convenor of local outfit Hindu Rakshak, that the comedian allegedly hurt Hindu religious sentiments during a comedy show at a popular cafe that day.

The order was passed by a single-judge bench, of Justice Rohit Arya of the Indore bench of the High Court, which had reserved judgment Monday on the bail pleas of Mumbai-based Faruqui and co-accused Nalin Yadav.

“The evidence/material collected so far suggest that in an organized public show under the garb of stand-up comedy at a public place on commercial lines, prima facie; scurrilous, disparaging utterances, outraging religious feelings of a class of citizens of India with deliberate intendment, were made by the applicants,” the bench ruled.

The bench said that it “refrains from commenting upon contentions of the parties touching on merits, but regard being had to the material seized and the statements of the witnesses and that the investigation is in progress, no case is made out for grant of bail.”

Dismissing the pleas, the High Court observed: “There is also a specific assertion by the learned counsel for the complainant (of) the applicant along with other co-accused persons allegedly making outraging filthy jokes in social media deliberately against Hindu Gods, Lord Shriram and Goddess Seeta hurting religious sentiments of Hindus for the last 18 months despite protest on various social media platforms. There is nothing on record to the contrary.”

The court also observed: “In the light of the statements of the complainant and the witnesses referred above, the seized articles, viz., video footage of the show and the seizure memos detailed above, at this stage, it is difficult to countenance to the submissions of the learned counsel for the applicant as complacency of the applicant cannot be ruled out, besides vulnerability of his acts in the public domain.”

Referring to a separate FIR registered against Faruqui in UP, the bench said: “The possibility of collection of more incriminating material and complacency of other persons cannot also be ruled out. Further, it has come on record that a similar nature of offence has been registered against the applicant at Police Station Georgetown, Prayagraj, state of Uttar Pradesh.”

The court, however, clarified that its “observations, if any, made in the order on facts are only for the purpose of deciding these bail applications and shall have no bearing on the pending trial”.

In the 10-page order, the court invoked the fundamental duties of a citizen to promote harmony and brotherhood. However, the order does not account for any precedents on bail jurisprudence.

In November last year, while granting bail to Republic TV editor-in chief Arnab Goswami, the Supreme Court cited a line of precedents and summarised the factors that High Courts must consider to grant bail. They include a reasonable apprehension of the accused tampering with witnesses, or being a threat to the complainant or the witnesses, or the possibility of securing the presence of the accused at the trial or the likelihood of the accused fleeing from justice.

Even upon conviction, the Criminal Procedure Code allows bail during the pendency of an appeal in the High Court against the conviction if the sentence is of less than three years. The maximum sentence for Section 259A of the IPC that Munawar and his associates are charged with is three years.

“Before parting with the case”, the Indore bench said Thursday: “It is the constitutional duty of every citizen of the country and also of the States to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India irrespective of religious, linguistic, regional or sectional diversities and to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture… States must endeavour that ecosystem and sustenance of co-existence in our welfare society is not polluted by negative forces and must strive for achievement of goals as enshrined under Article 51A (e) and (f) of the Constitution of India in particular as these provisions are part of our vibrant Constitution and not dead letters.”

Munawar’s bail plea was rejected on January 5 by a sessions court and his judicial custody extended by two weeks on January 13.

Following the High Court order, Vivek Tankha, Senior Counsel appearing for Faruqui, said: “I have read the order and I feel in my 30-40 years of experience that this is an order where the applicant can expect relief from Supreme Court.”

Anshumaan Shrivastava, advocate representing Faruqui, said: “The bail has been rejected based on statements which are baseless and false…The order also reflects that the police registered the case under presumption.”

The case was registered under IPC sections 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), section 269 (unlawful or negligent act likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life) and other relevant provisions by Tukoganj police based on Gaur’s complaint.

Rajesh Joshi, who is representing Gaur, said: “Faruqui has hurt the religious feelings of Hindus under the garb of freedom of speech and expression by delivering jokes against Hindu Gods… We will oppose the bail application before Supreme Court.”

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