New Delhi: Rejecting the anticipatory bail plea filed by the head of Amazon Prime Video’s India Originals Aparna Purohit, the Allahabad high court on Thursday observed that “names and icons of faith of the majority community have been used to earn money”.
Purohit has been booked for various offences, after a complaint against her was registered for “inappropriate depiction of Uttar Pradesh police personnel, Hindu deities and an adverse portrayal of a character playing the prime minister” in Amazon Prime’s web series Tandav. Complaints have been filed at various locations and the court was hearing the matter regarding an FIR registered in Noida.
A single-judge bench of Justice Sidharth noted, “Western filmmakers have refrained from ridiculing Lord Jesus or the Prophet but Hindi filmmakers have done this repeatedly and are still doing this most unabashedly with Hindu gods and goddesses.”
The court listed some movies “which have used the name of Hindu gods and goddesses and shown them in disrespectful manner”, such as Ram Teri Ganga Maili, Satyam Shivam Sundram, PK and Oh My God.
“Not only this, efforts have been made to subvert the image of historical and mythological personalities as in Padmavati. The names and icons of faith of the majority community have been used to earn money (Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram Leela),” the court said.
“This tendency on the part of the Hindi film industry is growing and if not curbed in time, it may have disastrous consequences for the Indian social, religious and communal order,” Justice Sidharth observed.
According to LiveLaw, the order also referred to the arrest of comedian Munawar Faruqui.
“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 Godesses 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,” he said.
The Indore police have admitted that Faruqui did not make any comments on Hindu deities, but justified his arrest on the basis that he was “going to” make jokes that would have hurt religious sentiments.
The court added that “such people make the revered figures of the religion of majority community source of earning money in most brazen manner taking benefit of the liberal and tolerant tradition of country.”
Purohit’s plea was that the web series was a work of fiction and there was no intention to outrage the religious feeling of any community.
The court observed, “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.”
“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 further said.
The judge said that Purohit was granted interim protection in another case registered in Lucknow “but she was not cooperating with the investigation”.
According to the Indian Express, the court said that while making a fictional show, it is the duty “of every citizen to respect the feelings of the people of other faith.”
“The irresponsible conduct against the inherent mandate of the Constitution of India by anyone affecting the fundamental rights of the large number of citizens cannot be acquiesced to only because of the tendering of unconditional apology after committing the alleged act of crime and indiscretion,” the order says.
A mere disclaimer that the show is fictional “cannot be considered to be a ground for absolving the applicant of permitting the streaming of an objectionable movie online”.
The court also criticised the show’s title, saying using the word ‘Tandav’ as the name “can be offensive to the majority of the people of this country since this word is associated with a particular act assigned to Lord Shiva who is considered to be creator, conservator and destroyer of the mankind all together.”
The counsel appearing on behalf of Uttar Pradesh opposed the application, saying that a total of 10 FIRs and four criminal complaints have been filed relating to the disputed web series across the country.
The government submitted that this shows that “merely one person is not affected by the conduct of the applicant and other co-accused persons, rather a number of persons across the country have felt that the web series is offensive and hence, they have lodged FIRs and complaints”.
Cases have also been registered against Tandav‘s director Ali Abbas Zafar, producer Himanshu Krishna Mehra, writer Gaurav Solanki and others. In late January, the Supreme Court declined to grant interim protection to the accused.