Punjab and Haryana High Court: Karamajit Singh, J., directed the State of Punjab not to take “coercive steps” against Raveena Tandon, Farah Khan, Bharti Singh, Screen Abbas Aziz Dalal & Frames Production on their plea, seeking quashing of an FIR registered against them for allegedly hurting religious sentiments during a web show titled as ‘Backbenchers’ released by Flipkart.
The show Backbenchers, which was launched on October 19, 2019, is a one-of-its-kind non-scripted comedy-based web quiz show hosted by Bollywood director Farah Khan. The show invites some of the Bollywood and Sports’ finest and tests their general knowledge through several rounds of written and oral tests.
The alleged incident arose from an unintentional conversation during the quizzing of the two participants, Raveena Tandon and Bharti Singh by the host Farah Khan. In the show Raveena Tandon and Bharti Singh were asked by Farah Khan to spell the word “Hallelujah” and also to disclose its meaning by narrating the same. While Raveena Tandon spelled it correctly but did not explain its meaning or narrate anything as regards to the word, Bharti Singh not knowing the origin and context of the word, mis-spelled it and referred it to an identical word in Hindi, of which only the pronunciation resembled.
Allegations were raised that, in the said show a joke of the word “Hallelujah” had been made, which played with the religious sentiments of a particular community.
Advocate Abhinav Sood argued that none of the ingredients of the alleged offence under Section 295-A of Penal Code, 1860 of hurting the religious sentiments were made out and there was no deliberate and malicious intention by anyone for outraging the religious feelings of a class.
Further, he contended that the petitioners’ statements could not be perceived to be disrespectful or hurtful to the sentiments of the Christian brothers or do not remotely qualify to constitute the offence under Section 295-A IPC.
High Court while issuing the notice of motion for 05-12-2022 directed that no coercive steps shall be taken by the State of Punjab against the petitioners. [Raveena Tandon v. State of Punjab, CRM-M-44189-2021, decided on 1-6-2022]
Advocates before the Court:
Mr Abhinav Sood, Advocate with Mr Gaurav Shukla, Advocate, Mr Anmol Gupta, Advocate,
Mr Dhruv Chowfla, Advocate, Mr Jashan Mehta, Advocate and Mr Shivjot Arya, Advocate, for the petitioners.