The Supreme Court today refused to quash the First Information Reports (FIRs) filed against television anchor Amish Devgan for making derogatory remarks against a Sufi saint.
The Court has also directed that all the FIRs filed against Devgan in different states be transferred to Ajmer’s police station.
The interim protection from an arrest earlier granted to the anchor will continue, subject to his joining the investigation.
The Bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Sanjiv Khanna had earlier reserved judgment in the plea by journalist Amish Devgan seeking to quash FIRs registered against him after referring to Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti as a “lootera” in one of his shows.
Several FIRs had been lodged against Amish Devgan in Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Telangana after using a derogatory term for the Sufi saint on his debate news show called Aar Paar aired on June 15 this year.
One of the FIRs was lodged at Pydhonie Police Station in Mumbai, claiming that Devgan hurt religious sentiments by referring to Chisti in derogatory terms during the TV program. A complaint making the allegations was filed by Arif Razvi, General Secretary of the Raza Academy.
He later tweeted an apology saying that he was actually referring to Alauddin Khilji and inadvertently ended up naming Chisti instead.
Devgan tweeted the clarification on his personal Twitter account on the intervening night of June 16-17.
The channel also carried a video clarification featuring the journalist, the plea states.
The anchor then moved the Supreme Court, seeking quashing of the FIRs, staying on the investigation, and protecting from any coercive action for his alleged comments against the Sufi saint.
He had claimed before the Court that his life and liberty were at stake. The plea states,
“In a well-orchestrated manner, the petitioner has been made a victim of country-wide filing of the false and baseless criminal complaint and FIRs on the one hand, and on the other hand, petitioner, his family, and his crew have been abused unabashedly on social media and by personal messages by unknown persons…
…The petitioner has also received several death threats from various anti-social elements…”
During the hearings, Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra, arguing for Devgan, had submitted that there was no “incitement of hate” or any attempt to “instigate a particular community against the other.”
Luthra further argued that Devgan would be entitled to the benefit under Section 95 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as the inadvertent slip of the tongue that led to taking the Sufi saint’s name could only have caused “slight harm.”
One of the primary questions before the Bench was whether there was men’s rea in the act of invoking Khwaja Chishti’s name on the show.
The Bench also pondered upon whether the apology tendered by Devgan over Twitter and through a video message was an afterthought following criticism on social media or whether it was a simple face-saving exercise.
The top court had granted protection to Devgan from any coercive action in connection with the FIRs. This protection was subsequently extended from time to time.
Advocate Mrinal Bharti filed the petition by Devgan.