The Allahabad High Court refused to grant anticipatory bail to Aparna Purohit, Head of Amazon India Originals in an FIR lodged against her with respect to the series “Tandav”. The bench of Justice Siddharth held that apologising or withdrawing scenes from the series would not absolve the accused persons of the offence committed by them.
Purohit has been charged under Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Information technology Act and the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act
It is stated in the FIR that in the “Tandav” series on Amazon Prime, the image of police has been adversely depicted, and that on account of the scenes and dialogues in the movie, the social harmony and public peace is being adversely affected. The FIR states that all this has been deliberately done to make the web series controversial and gain publicity for the purpose of commercial gain. The following allegations have been made:
In a Dial 100 police vehicle, two actors are shown travelling with open doors in a police uniform, consuming liquor and hurling abuses
Hindu Gods and Goddesses have been depicted in a bad light with the intention of inciting communal sentiments
post of Prime Minister has been depicted in a manner which will adversely affect the democratic system of the country
Caste and community related utterances have been made deliberately so that it may affect the public peace
utterances have been made against the State police, public administration and the constitutional posts so that the element of hate is developed between the communities
there are scenes which show disrespect for the scheduled castes
Purohit’s counsel submitted that the series is a work of fiction and comes with a disclaimer to that regard. The cast and crew of the show issued an unconditional apology and removed the offensive scenes. She also submitted that the FIR is bad in law since there was no deliberate and malicious intention in the movie aimed at insulting religious beliefs of any class of citizen.
The AGA appearing for the State submitted that the number of persons across the country have felt that the web series is offensive and hence so many FIRs have been lodged against them. “Even if there is no regulatory body to grant certificate of fitness to the movies being streamed online, it was the duty of the applicant to see that the contents of disputed movie are not such which may be detrimental to the social, communal, religious and political peace of the country,” he added.
The Court held that characters named Devakinandan and Kailash are part of the religious faith of the majority community of India, and their use by filmmakers in an offensive way is bound to hurt the sentiments of the majority community of the country. The court held that the esteemed and revered characters of the faith of the majority community of India have been lampooned and portrayed in a very cheap and objectionable way.
There was a scene in the series of a play on campus depicting Lord Shiva and Sage Narad, wherein Sage Narad is saying that the followers of Lord Ram are increasing day by day on social media and Lord Shiva wants suggestions from Sage Narad on how to increase his social media followers. Sage Narad replies that he should do something new, something blazing like flames, like all students on campus have become traitors, they are raising slogans of freedom. The court held thus, “The reference to Hindu Gods and Goddesses in the scenes in dispute in berating light cannot be justified. The advice of Sage Narad to Lord Shiva to make some inflammatory tweet on the Twitter like all the students of the campus becoming traitors and raising slogans of freedom clearly alludes to the incidents which took place in Jawaharlal Nehru University and therefore, it can be considered to be a message of hate advanced through the movie”.
The court also referred to a scene where one character says to another that “a lower caste man dates a woman belonging to a higher caste, just to get revenge for centuries of atrocities”. The court held that she has been depicted in a derogatory manner affecting her dignity since she has been made a symbol of revenge of a man of lower caste.
The court also held that use of the word ‘Tandav’ as the name of the movie 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 mankind all together.
The court held that apologising or withdrawing the scene would not absolve the accused persons of the offence committed by them.
The court observed that whenever “such crimes are committed” by citizens like the applicant inimical to the interest of this country become active and say that India has become intolerant. It further said that this then becomes a topic of debate in liberal democracies of the West and that Indian diplomacy has to face a tough time protecting the interest of the country.
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 the Hindu Gods and Goddesses, the court further added.
The court also referred to the Munawar Faruqui case and said that he made comments on Hindu God and Goddesses in a new year show at Indore, and gained undue publicity on being arrested. The court said, “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 court then referred to movies like Ram Teri Ganga Maili, Satyam Shivam Sundram, P.K., Oh My God, Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram Leela where Hindus gods have been shown in disrespectful manner and their names used to earn money; and Padmavati where image of historical and mythological personalities were subverted. “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,” observed the court.
The court said that there appears to be a design behind such acts where disclaimers are given and religiously, socially and communally offensive content is portrayed. The court said that the young generation starts believing what is shown in the movies by the people like the accused persons and it destroys the basic concept of the survival of this country having tremendous diversity as a united nation.
The court held that the offences under section 295A, 153A, 505(1)(b) and 505(2) of the IPC were fully made out. “On the one hand, the sentiments of majority community have been hurt by display of the characters of their faith in disrespectful manner and on the other hand, an attempt has been made to widen the gap between the higher castes and the scheduled castes,” the court opined.
The court held 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”.
The court thus rejected Purohit’s anticipatory bail application.
The complete order may be read here