Allahabad High Court: In an interesting case regarding a controversial web-series, Tandav broadcasted on Amazon Prime on 16-01-2021, Siddharth, J., had denied anticipatory bail to Aparna Purohit, head of India Originals at Amazon Seller Services Pvt. Ltd. The Court remarked,

Actions of the applicant being against fundamental rights of majority of citizens, her fundamental right of life and liberty cannot be protected by grant of anticipatory bail.

The instant anticipatory bail application had been filed with a prayer to grant bail to the applicant in a case filed under Sections 153(A)(1)(b), 295-A, 505(1)(b), 505(2) Penal Code, Sections 66 and 67 of the Information Technology Act and Section 3(1)(r) of SC/ST Act. The allegations against the applicant were that religiously insensitive and objectionable scenes had been deliberately put in the movie to make the web series controversial and gain publicity for the purpose of commercial gain. In the series, caste and community-related utterances had been made deliberately so that it may affect public peace. Some of the dialogues that lead to outburst were:

“Bholenath, you are very innocent, do something new, Infact tweet something new, something sensational, some flaming blaze, like (Thinking) Yes, “All students of Campus became traitors, they are raising slogans of freedom-freedom” and

“When a man of a lower caste dates a woman of a higher caste, he is taking revenge for the centuries of atrocities from that one woman.”

The Bench observed, the scenes referred to above had shown the woman of higher caste in a derogatory manner affecting the dignity of the woman since she had been made a symbol of revenge of a man of lower caste for taking revenge against the atrocities done against the woman of lower castes from long time. The judge, while making a remark on the title of the movie said that, the use of the word “TANDAV” as the name of the movie could be offensive to majority of people since this word was associated with a particular act assigned to Lord Shiva. The scenes alluding to Lord Rama gaining popularity on social media were considered by the Court as a clear pointer to the dispute regarding the construction of Lord Ram’s temple.

Noticing the manner in which Devakinandan (a movie character) was abusing the man of lower caste working as a cobbler, comments regarding grant of reservation to scheduled castes and a scene where the image of the police of State of Uttar Pradesh had been depicted adversely the Bench stated,

“Irrespective of caste, boys and girls are marrying and the message given in the movie that if a man of lower caste dates a woman of higher caste, it will amount to revenge for the centuries of atrocities committed against people of lower caste by dating of woman of higher caste is not as per Article 38 of the Constitution of India.”

While relying on Amish Devgan v. Union of India, (2021) 1 SCC 1, wherein the Supreme Court had held that paradox of toleration is that if we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend the tolerant society against the onslaught of intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed,

the Court said though cast and the crew had issued an unconditional apology and had removed the offensive scenes and now there was no offensive material in the series, the submission of apology or withdrawal of scene after its streaming would not absolve the accused persons of the offence committed by them.

Further, the Bench expressed concern over worsening trend in hindi film industry of showing Gods and Goddesses in disrespectful manner (Ram Teri Ganga Maili, Satyam Shivam Sundram, P.K., Oh My God, etc.). The Bench stated not only this; efforts had been made to subvert the image of historical and mythological personalities (Padmavati) and names and icons of faith of majority community had been used to earn money (Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram Leela). To point out that similar trend had been followed in comedy, the judge mentioned how an obscure stand-up comedian, Munawar Faruqui, from Gujarat made comments on Hindu God and Godesses.

Lastly, the Single Judge observed that on the one hand, the sentiments of majority community had been hurt by display of the characters of their faith in disrespectful manner and on the other hand, an attempt had been made to widen the gap between the higher castes and the scheduled castes when the object of the State is to bridge the gap between the different castes and communities and make the country a united force socially, communally and politically.

Hence, in the light of facts that the applicant was granted interim protection from arrest by the order dated 11-02-2021 by a co-ordinate Bench, but she was not co-operating with the investigation the instant bail application was rejected.[Aparna Purohit v. State of U.P., 2021 SCC OnLine All 179, decided on 25-2-021]

Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this story together.

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