The Punjab and Haryana High Court has quashed an FIR against singer and composer Vishal Dadlani and political activist Tehseen Poonawalla for allegedly hurting religious sentiments for their tweets on Jain monk Tarun Sagar. However, the court has imposed a fine of Rs 10 lakh each to “do justice” to the Jain community, even if it has ruled that no charge under the law is made out in the case.
In August 2018, an FIR was registered against Dadlani and Poonawalla in Haryana’s Ambala district after they questioned the authorities for inviting Sagar to address the Haryana legislative assembly.
While Dadlani had later apologized to the monk, Poonawalla told the court that he has no regrets over the tweets.
On Monday, Justice Arvind Singh Sangwan, ruling in favour of Dadlani and Poonawalla, said the question still arises whether the petitions are to be allowed simply or the power under Section 482 CrPC (the provision allows the High Court to pass any orders in criminal law to secure the ends of justice) can also be used to ensure “justice can also be done to the followers of Jain religion”.
“If the contribution made by the petitioners towards poor people is compared to the contribution made by Jain muni Tarun Sagar, it is apparent that the petitioners have played a mischief to gain publicity without having much to their credit,” Justice Sangwan said.
Justice Sangwan further added that in recent years, the country has “witnessed large-scale violent protest on incitement made by using social media platform, thereby causing extensive damage to public property. However, the preachings of Jain muni Tarun Sagar about non-violence, sacrifices and forgiveness, has avoided repetition of such like protest”.
Observing that it would be appropriate to impose a cost of Rs 10 lakh on each to ensure that in future, they “may not mock at any head of a religious sect, just to gain publicity on social media like Twitter,” Justice Sangwan has ordered Poonawalla to deposit Rs 5 lakh with the Tarun Kranti Manch Trust, Delhi, and deposit the other half of the fine with the Poor Patient’s Fund of PGIMER, Chandigarh. Meanwhile, Dadlani has been ordered to pay Rs 5 lakh to the Shri Digamber Jain Mandir Trust, Chandigarh, and the rest to Punjab and Haryana High Court Advocates’ Welfare Fund.
The amount is to deposited within four months from Monday.
Justice Sangwan in the verdict further observed that the Supreme Court has already held that it is not the task of the criminal law to punish individuals merely for holding unpopular views, and ruled that offence under Section 295-A of IPC, Section 153-A IPC, Section 509 of IPC and Section 66E of the Information Technology Act, 2000 is not made out in the FIR registered against Dadlani and Poonawala.
Regarding the photograph posted by Poonawala, the court said, “…he has put a photograph of an unknown lady in semi-nude condition with the photograph of Jain Muni Tarun Sagar and it is stated that if the Jain Muni can walk naked then why a woman should be called a slut, however, the same is not intended to insult any woman in particular as the offence under Section 509 of IPC referred to intending to insult the modesty of any woman”.
However, the court at the same time held the main target of Dadlani and Poonawala was the Jain Muni and especially his lifestyle which he followed as per his religious norms.