MP HC | “The goals enshrined under Art. 51A(e) and (f) are part of our vibrant Constitution and not dead letters”; HC rejects bail application of Comedian Munawar Faruqui

Madhya Pradesh High Court: Rohit Arya, J., in a controversial case regarding the use of insulting and unparliamentary language during the show, rejected the bail application of Comedian Munawar Faruqui and organizers of the show. The Court reiterated Articles 51A (e) and (f) of the Constitution,

“It is the constitutional duty of every citizen of the country and also of the States to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India irrespective of religious, linguistic, regional or sectional diversities and to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture”

 On 01-01-20201, a stand-up comedy show was organized at Munro Café. The complainant, who was a custodian of Hindu Protection Congregation (Sanghatan); had alleged that in the show, the comedians were deliberately cutting filthy and indecent jokes on Hindu Gods and Goddesses and BJP National President, Amit Shah. As a result, the comedians had hurt and outraged religious sentiments of the complainant. An FIR was filed for the offences punishable under Sections 295A, 298, 269 and 188/34 IPC and the applicant was kept in custody since 01-01-2021. The applicant had sought for bail before the Court of Magistrate and the Sessions Judge respectively but both the applications had been rejected.

Counsel for the applicant, Vivek Tankha argued that cutting of jokes on political leaders would not attract any offence, in view of Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution, as it enshrines freedom of speech and expression. It was contended that the applicants were artists who cut jokes for laughter and entertainment of the general public and they had no intention to hurt religious feelings of any person of the society. The counsel, while contending so relied on Mahendra Singh Dhoni v. Yerraguntla Shyamsundar, (2017) 7 SCC 760, wherein, it had been held that every act of insult to religion offered unwittingly or carelessly or without any deliberate or malicious intention to outrage the religious feelings of that class will not fall in the domain of section 295A IPC. 

The complainant alleged that the applicant and his associates had been actively involved in deliberately making nefarious, filthy and indecent jokes against the Hindu Gods, Lord Maryada Purshottam Ram and Mata Seeta. It was further alleged that the applicant along with co-accused had been regularly making such nefarious jokes on social media for the last 18 months, despite protest on various social media platforms.

The Bench, after observing collected material and evidence, held that the applicant had prima facie; made scurrilous, disparaging utterances, outraging religious feelings of a class of citizens of India with deliberate intendment in an organized public show under the garb of stand-up comedy at a public place on commercial lines.

The Court, while expressing, “our country is a beautiful country and sets an example of co-existence amid diversities; be it religion, language, culture, geographical locations etc, to the world at large”, stated that complacency of the applicant could not be ruled out. Further, noticing that a similar nature of offence had been registered against the applicant at Police Station Georgetown, Prayagraj, State of Uttar Pradesh, the Bench rejected the bail application of the applicant. [Munnawar Faruqui v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 2021 SCC OnLine MP 152, decided on 28-01-2021]

Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

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