Madhya Pradesh High Court on Thursday dismissed the bail plea moved by comedian Munawar Faruqui and Nalin Yadav accused of hurting religious sentiments (Munnawar S/o Iqbal Faruqui and v. State of Madhya Pradesh, Nalin S/o Shri Dharmendra Yadav v. State of Madhya Pradesh).
Justice Rohit Arya who pronounced the order after reserving orders on Monday has concluded that, “regard being had to the material seized and the statements of the witnesses and that the investigation is in progress, no case is made out for grant of bail.”
In his order, Justice Arya highlighted that there is a Constitutional duty on every citizen and the State to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood irrespective of religious, linguistic, sectional, and regional diversities (under Article 51A(e) and (f) of the Constitution).
The Court must strive to ensure that Article 51A(e) and (f) of the Constitution of India are not dead letters, the Judge saw fit to remark.
“Fundamental Rights although confers rights but the duties and obligations are inherent thereunder. Every right is coupled with duty. Liberty of an individual has to be balanced with his duties and obligations towards his fellow citizens,” the Court said.
The State must endeavour to ensure that this “ecosystem and sustenance of coexistence in our welfare society is not polluted by negative forces,” the Court added.
“Our country is a beautiful country and sets an example of coexistence amid diversities; be it religion, language, culture, geographical locations etc, to the world at large. Mutual respect, faith and trust amongst all citizens of India are basic tenets of co-existence, in a welfare society governed by the principles of rule of law,” read the order.
The Court concluded that there is prima facie evidence to suggest that the applicants (Faruqui and the show organiser, Yadav) had intended to outrage religious feelings “under the garb of standup comedy.”
“The evidence/material collected sofar, suggest that in an organized public show under the garb of standup comedy at a public place on commercial lines, prima facie; scurrilous, disparaging utterances, outraging religious feelings of a class of citizens of India with deliberate intendment, were made by the applicant,” the Court said.
The Court rejected the submissions made on behalf of Faruqui that he had not uttered any statements as alleged in the criminal complaint, opining that in view of the complaint, the witnesses in the case and video footage seized of the show, the submissions of Faruqui cannot be accepted.
“At this stage it is difficult to countenance to the submissions of the learned counsel for the applicant as complacency of the applicant cannot be ruled out, besides vulnerability of his acts in public domain. It is not a case of no evidence,” the Court said.
The Court proceeded to dismiss the bail application after observing that the investigation is still in progress and the possibility that more incriminating material may be collected regarding the involvement of others cannot be ruled out.
“Further, it has come on record that similar nature of offence has been registered against the applicant at Police Station Georgetown, Prayagraj, State of Uttar Pradesh,” the Court added, referring to the Uttar Pradesh police’s recent move to seek Faruqui’s custody for statements made by him in May 2020.
Faruqui, who was arrested on January 1 by the Madhya Pradesh Police had applied for bail on January 2 before the Sessions Court. After hearing both the sides, the Sessions Court rejected the bail application, observing that there are no grounds for bail given the seriousness of the case.
Following this order, the Faruqui and three others were sent to judicial custody till January 13. The quartet then approached the Madhya Pradesh High Court challenging this order.
Faruqui was arrested on allegations that he made derogatory remarks against Hindu Gods during a recent stand-up show. A complaint to this effect was reportedly filed by Eklavya Singh Gaur, chief of Hindutva organisation Hind Rakshak Sangathan.