The Allahabad High Court on Friday granted interim protection to Ritesh Sidhwani and Farhan Akhtar, the producers of the Amazon Prime web series, ‘Mirzapur‘ in relation to a case registered against them for allegedly hurting religious, social and regional sentiments through their portrayal of the town of Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh (Ritesh Sidhwani And Another v. State of UP).
A Bench of Justices Subhash Chand and Manoj Kumar Gupta noted that there is prima facie force in the contention of the petitioners that the offences alleged in the First Information Report (FIR) are not made out.
“Having considered the rival submissions, we prima-facie find force in the contentions of learned counsel for the petitioners. We are also of the opinion that the matter requires further consideration … Having regard to the facts of the case and the submissions made, till the next date of listing or till submission of police report under Section 173(2) CrPC, whichever is earlier, no coercive action shall be taken against the petitioners in pursuance of the FIR,” the Court said.
Sidhwani, the co-founder of Excel Entertainment, which produced Mirzapur, and Akhtar had approached the High Court after an FIR was registered for offences under Sections 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The allegation on the FIR was that the web series portrayed the town of Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh in an indecent and improper manner.
The FIR was lodged on January 17 in Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh. One, Arvind Chaturvedi has alleged that ‘certain’ content in the series depict s the town of Mirzapur as antisocial and infested with crime and that the show promotes illicit relationships, portrays a polluted picture of the legal and judicial system.
The portrayal of Mirzapur in the show in such a manner is far away from reality of life in Mirzapur. As such the show “has hurt his sentiments”, the complainant had stated.
In challenging the FIR, the petitioners have pointed out that the series is purely a work of fiction, which is also clarified by way of a disclaimer at the start of each episode. The said disclaimer also states that the makers of the show respect all faiths and religions and that all places and events in the said series are completely fictional.
The petitioners further submitted that the FIR has been filed three months after the second season of the show was aired. As such, the FIR has also been challenged as being filed after inordinate delay.
Furthermore, the petitioners have contended that the lodging of the FIR under section 295-A IPC (outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India,) is bad in law, as the essential ingredients for the said offence are not at all made out.
The FIR has also been challenged as an attack on free speech guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution.
The matter has been listed for the first week of March. For the petitioners, the matter was argued by Senior Advocates Manish Tiwary and GS Chaturvedi, assisted by Advocates Syed Imran Ibrahim, Kumar Bhardwaj, Pooja Sharma and Saumya Chaturved. AGA JK Upadhyay appeared for the State.