A single-judge bench of the Allahabad High Court has rejected an anticipatory bail application filed by Aparna Purohit, a top Amazon executive in India over a UP Police FIR in Noida against the makers of the web series 'Tandav'. Ms Purohit has been accused of promoting religious enmity and defiling a place of worship.
Ms Purohit has protection from arrest in a second, separate case filed by the police in Lucknow, and a different judge in the Allahabad High Court extended that protection till March 9 three days ago.
Making strong observations while rejecting Ms Purohit's anticipatory bail plea in the Noida case, in a 20-page order, Justice Siddharth said, "The conduct of the applicant shows that she has scant respect for the law of the land and her conduct further disentitles her to any relief from this court."
In further observations, the judge said, "Whenever such crimes are committed by some citizens of the country, like the applicant and her co-accused persons, and it is made the subject matter of demonstration and public protest, the forces inimical to the interest of this country become active and they make it an issue and raise it before different national and international forums alleging that the Indian citizens have become intolerant and 'India' has become unsafe place to live.
"Even in the liberal democracies of the West, it becomes a topic of debate and the Indian diplomacy has to face tough time protecting the interest of the country and assuring the international community that the protests made against such acts are stray and genuine and it is not mark of any intolerance in the country as a whole."
Referring to the case of comedian Munawar Faruqui, who recently got bail from the Supreme Court after spending several days in a Madhya Pradesh prison, the judge said, "Western filmmakers have refrained from ridiculing Lord Jesus or the Prophet, but Hindi filmmakers have done this repeatedly and still doing this most unabashedly with Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Things are worsening as is evident from the fact that an obscure stand-up comedian, Munawar Faruqui, from Gujarat made comments on Hindu God and Goddesses in a New Year show at Indore and gained undue publicity on being arrested in a case.
"This shows that from films this trend has passed to comedy shows. Such people make the revered figures of religion of majority community source of earning money in most brazen manner taking benefit of the liberal and tolerant tradition of country. The Supreme Court has granted him relief recently after the same was denied by the high court."
In further observations, Justice Siddharth said, "The fact remains that the applicant had not been vigilant and has acted irresponsibly making her open to criminal prosecution in permitting streaming of a movie which is against the fundamental rights of the majority of citizens of this country and therefore, her fundamental right of life and liberty cannot be protected by grant of anticipatory bail to her in the exercise of discretionary powers of this court."
The court also commented on what it called a "growing tendency" on the part of the Hindi film industry to subvert the image of historical and mythological personalities. "If not curbed in time, it may have disastrous consequences for the Indian social, religious and communal order. There appears to be a design behind such acts on the part of people who just give a disclaimer in all the films and depict things in movies which are really religiously, socially and communally offensive in nature.
"The young generation of the country, which is not much aware of the social and cultural heritage of this country, gradually starts believing what is shown in the movies by people like the accused persons in the present movie in dispute and thereby, it destroys the basic concept of the survival of this country having tremendous diversity of all kinds as a united nation."