Actor Kangana Ranaut and her sister Rangoli Chandel will not be arrested for now, the Bombay High Court said today, ordering them to appear before the Mumbai police on January 8 in a case filed against them over provocative social media posts.
The High Court, hearing the sisters' request to cancel the case, said they must honour summons and gave them protection from arrest. But the court also questioned sedition charges against them.
"We are of the prima facie opinion that interim protection till the matter is heard at length deserves to be granted. The police shall not take any coercive action including arrest against the applicants (Ranaut and Chandel)," the court said.
The judges refused to accept Kangana Ranaut and her sister's argument that they skipped summons because they were busy with a wedding in the family.
"We could not come because a wedding was on. That is why she has sent the statements," argued their lawyer.
The judges replied: "Whatever it is, you have to honour the summons."
The actor assured the court that she and her sister would record their statements on January 8.
The Mumbai police lawyer questioned: "Let them come ASAP if they want protection. What is so special about them that they should wait till January?"
The police, however, faced tough questions. On sedition charges slapped against Kangana Ranaut over her posts, one of the judges asked: "Are you treating citizens of the country like this? 124A?"
The sisters have been accused by the police in a First Information Report of making objectionable comments on social media aimed at provoking communal tension. The charges include sedition, promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and race and hurting religious sentiment.
Casting director and fitness trainer Munawwar Ali Sayyed had filed a complaint against the sisters over their Twitter posts.
A metropolitan magistrate's court in Mumbai's Bandra had ordered the police to investigate the complaint.
Ms Ranaut and her sister skipped three summons. After they failed to appear on October 26 and 27 and on November 9 and 10, the police had asked them to come yesterday and today. They had said through their lawyer that they were busy with their brother's wedding in Himachal Pradesh till November 15.
Kangana Ranaut has been in the thick of controversies this year because of an ugly face-off with Mumbai Police and the Maharashtra government over her criticism of the Sushant Singh Rajput investigation. Her remarks about feeling unsafe in Mumbai and comparing the city to PoK led to an escalation in which she accused Mumbai's civic body of targeting her with demolitions at her office.