New Delhi: The Supreme Court Friday granted interim bail to stand-up comedian Munawar Faruqui and also stayed the production warrant issued in connection with a case registered by the Uttar Pradesh Police against him last year.
The bench led by Justice R.F. Nariman issued notice to the Madhya Pradesh government on Faruqui’s petition, challenging the MP High Court’s earlier order that dismissed his request for bail.
Faruqui has been lodged in jail for over a month now in Indore, and his bail petition was denied thrice by a sessions court and the High Court.
On 28 January, a single-judge HC bench of Justice Rohit Arya had said Faruqui and co-accused Nalin Yadav’s complacency could not be ruled out in light of the statements made by the complainant and witnesses as well as the articles seized by the police and video footage of the show.
It was not a case of “no evidence”, the judge had held.
Faruqui and four other artistes were arrested on 1 January under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including Section 295A (deliberate and malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings of any class), for allegedly cracking jokes about Hindu gods and goddesses, and also Union Home Minister Amit Shah, during a show at a café in Indore.
The case was registered on a complaint filed by Aklavya Singh Gaud, convenor of local Hindu outfit Hind Rakshak, alleging that Faruqui and others had hurt “religious feelings of Hindus” through their “outrageously filthy jokes cracked deliberately against Hindu gods and goddess”.
Faruqui also moved SC with a separate writ petition to quash the FIR registered against him by the Madhya Pradesh Police. The top court has also issued notice on the same.
Bail granted because MP Police did not follow 2014 SC judgment
During Faruqui’s bail hearing Friday, his lawyer Saurabh Kirpal told Justice Nariman that the case against the comedian was an instance of victimisation.
The bench then asked Kirpal if SC’s 2014 judgment on arrests was followed by the Madhya Pradesh Police when Faruqui was detained, which the lawyer replied was not followed.
“Judgement of 2014 is not followed in this case and that has been pointed out to us. We issue notice on the interim bail plea. Production warrant by UP stayed,” the court then ordered.
In the case of Arnesh Kumar Vs State of Bihar in 2014, the top court had laid down a procedure to be followed to arrest persons in matters where an offence is punishable with a jail term of up to seven years.
Reiterating the provisions under Section 41A of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPc), the SC had ruled that every police officer shall forward a check list of the arrest duly filled and furnish the reasons and materials which necessitated the arrest, while forwarding or producing the accused before the magistrate.
According to the judgment, notice of appearance has to be extended by the superintendent of police concerned to the accused within two weeks of filing the case, under Section 41A of CrPC.
“Arrest brings humiliation, curtails freedom and casts scars forever,” the top court had said, adding that the police must ensure they do not arrest an accused unnecessarily and the magistrate does not authorise detention casually and mechanically.
Victim of ‘gross persecution’
In his appeal against the HC order, Faruqui had said he was a victim of “gross persecution” and was “illegally abducted” without “any incriminating evidence”.
He alleged that he was forcefully taken to Tukoganj police station in Indore and was arrested on the spot without any prior investigation.
The impugned HC order “spells a death knell to the fundamental concomitant of bail jurisprudence which rests upon the principle that grant of bail is a rule whereas its rejection it’s only by way of an exception”, Faruqui submitted to the SC.
He added that the order highlighted the HC’s “prejudice”, which rejected his bail plea on the grounds of complacency and videos that were published earlier on social media platforms and “were never part of the transaction on the basis of which the instant FIR was registered”.
The HC order, the appeal maintained, is contrary to settled tenets of law and provisions of Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code.
His petition noted that the HC incorrectly relied upon earlier videos of Faruqui that were uploaded on YouTube, which had no relation or bearing to the present case.
According to him, the HC completely ignored the words spoken by Faruqui at the show.
He added that they were never meant to insult or meant to outrage the religious feelings of a particular class of people “but merely a satire for the purpose of entertainment”.
“The entire comic was never meant to be taken literally,” he stated in his petition, noting that the HC erred in basing its order on content that was never part of the FIR or ever alleged by the complainant.
The alleged complacency and selected bits and pieces of videos, which are circulating in the public domain, could not have been made the basis for deciding the question of petitioner’s liberty, Faruqui stated in his petition.
The appeal also cited the Arnesh Kumar judgment and highlighted that the police transgressed its jurisdiction by arresting him without complying with mandatory procedural requirements.