Freedom of Expression

Dadlani Granted Anticipatory Bail, Court Says Complaint Made Only to ‘Humiliate’ Him

Vishal Dadlani at a Ambala police station. Credit: Jahnavi Sen

Vishal Dadlani at an Ambala police station with his lawyer, Karuna Nundy on September 21, 2016. Credit: Jahnavi Sen

New Delhi/Ambala: Musician and former Aam Aadmi Party member Vishal Dadlani – facing criminal charges in various parts of the country after he criticised the Haryana government’s decision to invite a Jain monk to address the legislative assembly in a series of tweets – was granted anticipatory bail by a sessions court in Ambala on Friday.

Judge Deepak Gupta also pulled up the state and the complainant in the case, saying their conduct “gives an inference that the purpose of the complainant/State is to humiliate the Petitioner (Dadlani) and not to make progress in the investigation”. The news was broken by his lawyer, Karuna Nundy, on Twitter:

The case against the singer in Ambala has been filed by Puneet Arora, who in his complaint had said he was “visibly hurt and aggrieved” by tweets from Dadlani and Congressman Tehsin Poonawalla on the Jain monk’s speech. “This is straight away, through the medium of the internet, a matter of spreading religious discontent/enmity, hurting of belief and religious sentiments, disrespect of Jain Saint, who belongs to a minority community, the entire female fraternity, 2.5 crore residents of Haryana, the respected Governor, respected Speaker, respected Chief Minister and Elected Representative, the matter concerns disrespect towards all,” Arora said in his complaint.

On Wednesday, Dadlani met the monk in question, Muni Tarun Sagar, and apologised. The monk said that he held nothing against Dadlani and all complaints against him should be retracted. However, Arora then told The Wire that he did not intend to retract the complaint and the matter was not in “the court’s hands”.

In an order passed on September 19, the day of the previous hearing in the case, judge Gupta ruled in favour of Dadlani:

“In the present case, the allegations against the petitioner, as contained in the FIR, are that by posting tweets, petitioner insulted not only Saint & Tapasvi Shri Tarun Sagar Ji but also hurt the religious sentiments of others. There is nothing in the FIR to suggest that one group or Community was intended to be pitted against the other, on the ground of religion, race, place of birth etc. so as to attract Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code. Therefore, it is a moot point that whether Section 153A IPC is attracted to the case or not.”

The judge also made it clear that he believed Dadlani’s repeated claim that he only wanted to make the point that religion should be kept out of politics, not hurt any religious sentiments or single out a specific community:

“In the present case, from the series of tweets posted by the petitioner on 27.08.2016, it is clear that though, he did not use … proper words to criticise but prima facie, it appears that his intention was to criticise the preaching/ speech of Jain Muni Shri Tarun Sagar Ji, addressed from [the] precincts of Haryana Legislative Assembly, a symbol of protecting secular character of the country, whereby he had told that “how women should live; what to wear etc.” Petitioner wanted to show his concern about mixing of religion with the politics and criticise the action of the State Government in inviting Jain Muni to the Legislative Assembly. Not only this, after realising that his tweets were being criticised and were not being understood as he wanted to intend, he issued numerous apologies making it clear that he did not want to upset the Jain feelings and that his intent was to ridicule the merger of religion and politics,” the order reads.

The judge also commented on the police investigation (or lack thereof), saying: “In the present case, it is not clear from the police report that whether police has done any investigation so far or not so as to see the genuineness of the allegations.”

Speaking to the media in Ambala after a deposition before the police on Wednesday, Dadlani said that the court’s order made it clear that there were no grounds to the complaints against him and they were only being made to “harass and humiliate” him. “My point was only that religion and governance should be kept separate, I did not mean to hurt anyone’s sentiments. I have apologised to those who may have been hurt,” he said.