Independent MP Navneet Rana and her husband and MLA Ravi Rana, who were arrested after a public declaration that they would recite Hanuman Chalisa outside Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray's home, were granted bail by a Mumbai court today.
The couple has been named accused in two FIRs under the charges of sedition, promoting enmity and assaulting a public servant to prevent discharge of duty.
Ms Rana, MP from Amaravati and Mr Rana, MLA from Badnera Assembly segment, were arrested on April 23, hours after they cancelled their plan to recite Hanuman Chalisa outside Matoshree, the private residence of Chief Minister Thackeray.
The couple had slammed the Chief Minister and said he had deviated from the ideology practised by his father and Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray.
Granting the couple bail, special judge R N Rokade said they shall not commit a similar offence while on bail and not address the press on any subject related to the case.
In their plea, the couple had claimed that the call to recite the Hanuman Chalisa outside Matoshree, cannot be said to be an act that promotes feelings of enmity or hatred and the charge under IPC section 153(A) cannot be sustained. They also submitted that by no stretch of imagination can the acts be stated to constitute the offence of sedition.
The police had opposed the bail plea, saying that while the plan looks innocent, it was, in fact, a big plot to challenge the ruling government.
The police claimed that the opposition BJP in the state and political opponents of Thackeray were trying to create an atmosphere to show that the chief minister was against Hindus and not sponsoring the cause of Hinduism.
April 23 saw high drama; following the couple's declaration, Shiv Sena workers camped outside 'Matoshree'. Former Mumbai Mayor and Sena leader Kishori Pednekar said, "Let them come, we are ready to welcome them and give them 'prasad'."
The party leaders accused the BJP of hatching a conspiracy to harass the Sena-led coalition government in Maharashtra and using the Ranas and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena Chief Raj Thackeray as pawns.
"They (MLA Ravi Rana and MP Navneet Rana) have challenged the law and order situation. They were prompted to do this by someone," said Shiv Sena MP Anil Desai.
Senior party leader Sanjay Raut described the couple as 'Bunty aur Babli'. "People like Rana are characters in the nautanki (drama) and stunt of the BJP," he said.
BJP leader and former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had slammed the Shiv Sena-led government and said its handling of the episode was "very childish".
The state government tries to hide its failures by terming the situations it can't handle as BJP-sponsored, he said.
"If allowed, the Rana couple would have gone there (Matoshree), recited Hanuman Chalisa and returned without creating any news. I don't understand why so many people had gathered at several places as if they (Rana couple) were planning some attack. What kind of politics is this?" the BJP leader said.