Supreme Court stays coercive action on multiple FIRs against Amish Devgan

The apex court also stayed FIRs on OpIndia registered against it by the West Bengal police

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On Friday, June 26, 2020, the Supreme Court of India granted protection from arrest to news anchor Amish Devgan, against whom multiple FIRs were filed for making contentious remarks during a TV show and stayed FIRs registered by the West Bengal police against editors of news portal OpIndia, The Indian Express reported.

Coercive action against Amish Devgan stayed by SC

A Supreme Court bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna stayed any coercive action against TV news anchor Amish Devgan till the next date of hearing in multiple FIRs lodged against him for making offensive remarks against Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, Live Law reported.

The SC issued a notice on his writ petition seeking quashing of the FIRs and asked him to implead all the de-facto complainants.

Appearing for Devgan before the SC, Senior Advocate Siddharth Luthra had submitted that his client had made an “inadvertent error” during the show, for which he later issued a public apology. He submitted that lodging an FIR for a “slip of tongue” was unjust and amounted to undue harassment, reported Live Law.

SabrangIndia had done an analysis of Devgan’s June 15, 2020 show titled “Barson baad Ayodhya ki aas hui poori, sant kahein Kashi-Mathura kyun rahe adhuri (Only years later the desire for the Ayodhya temple was fulfilled, why should the Kashi-Mathura temples be left behind, ask saints)?” and found that he was inciting hatred by turning the debate into a religious one instead of covering legal aspects of the matter. The tone of the show was highly sensational and during the show he made an offensive remark at Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti by referring to him as ‘Lootera Chishti’ (looter / plunderer) on more than one occasion.

FIRs from organizations like Raza Academy, Darul Uloom Deoband, Samvidhaan Bachao Manch and members of the Shiv Sena among others were filed against Devgan under Section 295A (Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), 153A (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc, and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), 120B (criminal conspiracy), 505(2) (statements conducing to public mischief) and 34 (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) among other sections of the IPC.

Soon after the FIRs were filed against Devgan who is a repeat hate offender, he issued an apology via a tweet and through his show saying that wanted to say ‘Khilji’ but inadvertently said Chishti. Part of his speech where he made the controversial remarks were also deleted from the YouTube channel of News18 India where Devgan is a primetime anchor.

OpIndia FIRs stayed by SC

A vacation bench comprising Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and BR Gavai passed an interim order staying the investigations into three FIRs filed against the editors and founders of OpIndia. Three FIRs were filed by the West Bengal police against OpIndia English Editor Nupur Sharma, OpIndia Hindi Editor Ajeet Bharti, CEO Rahul Roushan and Nupur Sharma’s husband Vaibhav Sharma.

OpIndia’s petition pointed out that though other news outlets also carried write-ups on the subject, the “authoritarian Kolkata police” had singled out OpIndia and was using FIRs as an excuse to “intimidate journalists” in getting online content and reports critical of the state government deleted, IE reported.

As per OpIndia, the three contentious articles related to the following –

1.       A Hindi article published on OpIndia Hindi on May 14 which reported BJP leader and Union Minister Debasree Chaudhuri alleging that West Bengal CM was planning to convert West Bengal into an Islamic state and merge it with Bangladesh.

2.       A report published on OpIndia English, a curation of a Sunday Guardian report, which claimed that the West Bengal Bengal government was secretly disposing of bodies of deceased Covid-19 patients and hiding data of coronavirus deaths.

3.       A report published on October 7, 2019 on Azaan being played at a Durga Puja pandal in Kolkata.

Lodging the FIRs, the WB police had asked OpIndia to take down certain content from its website and from Twitter and warned them of repercussions if they failed to do so, the plea said.

The petitioners claimed that the police questioned the family members of those against whom the FIRs were registered and did not provide copies of the FIRs to them despite repeated requests. They also said that the FIRs weren’t uploaded on the official website. The petitioners alleged that the police action was violative of press freedom under Article 19(1) (a) o the Constitution of India and sought a direction from the court to exclude police in matters concerning deletion of internet content, IE said.

Soon after the verdict, OpIndia Editor Nupur Sharma tweeted the SC order with the caption ‘Jai Shree Ram’.


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Multiple FIRs against TV anchor Amish Devgan for insulting Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti on show
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