Mumbai: The city police told the Bombay High Court on Monday that they will not arrest actor Kangana Ranaut till January 25, 2022 over her social media post that allegedly linked farmers’ protests to a separatist group.
The police made the statement after a bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and Sarang Kotwal said the issue involved the larger question of Ranaut’s fundamental right to free speech and that the court will have to grant her some ad-interim relief.
Ranaut approached the HC earlier this month, seeking that the FIR registered against her in November this year at Khar police station Mumbai, following a complaint by a Sikh organisation, be quashed.
In her plea filed through advocate Rizwan Sidiquee, Ranaut said while the complainants took objection to her Instagram post made on November 21, there was no legal case made out against her.
The FIR was registered against the actor following a complaint made by some members of a Sikh body that claimed Ranaut, through her Instagram post, had portrayed the farmers’ protest on Delhi borders as a Khalistani movement.
The police then booked Ranaut on charges of deliberately hurting the community’s religious sentiments under Section 295-A of the Indian Penal Code.
On Monday, Ranaut’s counsel told the HC that to invoke charges under section 295-A, an accused must have made the offensive comment with the deliberate and malicious intent of hurting a particular person or a community’s religious sentiments. However, in the present case, the actor had no such intention, her counsel said.
The bench went through Ranaut’s social media post in question and agreed with her counsel’s submission.
“Where is the deliberate and malicious intent here? Section 295 says that should be the sole and dominant object,” the HC said to the prosecution.
The bench then asked the police if they intended to arrest Ranaut in the case.
Chief Public Prosecutor Aruna Pai, who appeared for the police, said the Khar police had issued a notice to Ranaut, asking her to appear before them for questioning, but the actor hadn’t responded to it yet.
“We have issued a notice to her (Ranaut) under Section 41A of the CrPC on December 1, but she hasn’t responded. She isn’t cooperating,” Pai told the HC.
A notice under Section 41A of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) is issued to an accused in cases where immediate arrest is not necessary, but the accused’s presence is required at police station for questioning.
Ranaut’s counsel told the HC that she was willing to appear before the police, but apprehended her arrest in the case.
The HC then told Pai that the Khar police will require to make a categorical statement on whether they intended to arrest Ranaut or not.
“There is also the larger question of the protection of freedom of speech here. Unless the police make a statement of not arresting her (Ranaut), we’ll have to grant some relief,” the court said.
Ranaut’s counsel said the actor will appear before the Khar police on December 22.
Pai then made a statement on behalf of the investigating officer in the case that the “police will not arrest her (Ranaut) until the next date of hearing in the HC.”
The court accepted the police’s statement and posted the matter for further hearing on January 25, 2022.
The HC also granted time to the complainants till the next hearing to file a reply to Ranaut’s plea.