Supreme Court: The bench of Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna, JJ, on Friday, granted protection to activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan from any coercive action in an FIR lodged against him at Rajkot in Gujarat for allegedly hurting religious sentiments of the Hindus. In the proceedings conducted through video conferencing, the Court issued notice to the Gujarat Police and listed Bhushan’s plea after two weeks.

“In the meantime, no coercive action be taken against the petitioner in First Information Report No. 11209052200180 lodged on 12th April 2020 under Sections 295A/505(1)(b), 34 and 120B of the IPC registered at the Police Station Bhaktinagar, Rajkot, Gujarat.

The FIR was lodged by former Army personnel Jaidev Rajnikant Joshi at Rajkot alleging that Bhushan hurt religious sentiments of Hindus by tweeting against re-telecast of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata serials on DD during the coronavirus lockdown in the country.

While granting interim relief and protection to Bhushan, the apex court said,

“anybody can watch anything on TV” and questioned as to how one can ask people not to watch a particular programme.”

Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for Bhushan, sought quashing of the FIR lodged against the activist lawyer and sought interim protection against any coercive measure for the time being. He said he was not on the issue of as to what people should watch on TV, but was arguing against registration of the FIR.

In his complaint, Joshi had accused Bhushan of using word ‘opium’ for Ramayana and Mahabharata in a tweet on March 28 which hurt the sentiments of many Hindu people.

Bhushan had tweeted

“As crores starve & walk hundreds of miles home due to forced lockdown, our heartless ministers celebrate consuming & feeding the opium of Ramayana & Mahabharata to the people.”

Bhushan had filed the plea on Thursday and it was listed a day after the bench.

[Prashant Bhushan v. Jaidev Rajnikant Joshi, Writ Petition(s)(Criminal) No(s). 131/2020, order dated 01.05.2020]

(With inputs from PTI)

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