SC refuses to grant safety from arrest to ‘Tandav’ staff members

Satya Prakash

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 27

The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to grant interim protection from arrest to the director, producer, writer and actor of web series ‘Tandav’ who were facing multiple cases of allegedly hurting religious sentiments of Hindus in six states.

A Bench of Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice R Subhash Reddy and Justice MR Shah also dismissed their pleas for quashing of the FIRs, saying, “You cannot play a role hurting religious sentiments of others”.

The right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution was not absolute, it noted.

The Bench, however, issued notices on their petitions for clubbing of all the FIRs and them to one place.

A battery of senior advocates including, Fali Nariman, Mukul Rohatgi, Sidharth Luthra and Siddharth Agarwal—representing Amazon India Creative Head Aparna Purohit, Tandav producer Himanshu Mehra, director Ali Abbas Zafar, writer Gaurav Solanki and actor Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub—tried their best to convince the court to give protection to the ‘Tandav’ from coercive action by police.

Citing similar protection given to TV journalists Arnab Goswami and Amish Devgan, they submitted that refusal of protection from arrest will lead to “havoc”, as they will have to move various district courts in six states.

“FIRs are filed in six states. And it’s increasing every day. There’s some sort of concert in this and we want to avoid it. Now we have seven in the last five days,” Nariman told the Bench which wanted the petitioners to move high courts.

“It’s a political satire. If people are so sensitive in everything, then art, cinema, TV, all will be destroyed. Article 19(1)(a) is the most jealously guarded right. It must be protected. This is a genuine case. We have done no wrong. Every day there is a new FIR. Where will a man go? Can he go to every state and argue? Your lordships may at least club the FIRs,” Rohatgi said.

But the Bench wasn’t convinced. “We cannot use the power under Section 482 CrPC. We are not inclined to grant interim protection,” the top court said even as it clarified that pendency of the matter before it will not prejudice the petitioners’ right to seek bail from the courts concerned.

The ‘Tandav’ team members were booked for gate speech and hurting religious sentiments of Hindus under Sections 153-A, 295, 505(1)(b), 505(2) and 469 of IPC and certain provisions of the the Information Technology Act.

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