The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice on a plea seeking clubbing of FIRs registered in various states against Ali Abbas Zafar, the director of the web series Tandav, and others for allegedly hurting the religious sentiments of Hindus.
Besides Zafar, Amazon Prime India head Aparna Purohit, producer Himanshu Mehra, the show’s writer Gaurav Solanki and actor Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub have filed three separate petitions against the registration of FIRs in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra.
The bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and M.R. Shah, however, refused to accept petitioners’ plea seeking quashing of FIR and interim protection from arrest. The bench said the petitioners could approach the court for an appropriate remedy under law for anticipatory bail.
Senior Counsel Fali Nariman appearing for the petitioners submitted before the Court that the alleged controversial contents had been removed and nothing remained in the matter and perhaps the respondents “ego has been hurt”.
On the bench’s insistence that the petitioners approach the High Court, Nariman pointed that the bench had entertained Arnab Goswami’s petition and it was not possible to approach all the High Courts.
Senior Counsel Mukul Rohatgi, concurring with Nariman’s argument, said that it was the Apex Court’s stand that a petitioner could approach the Supreme Court for Article 19 (1) (a) (Right to Freedom of Speech and expression) matter and urged the bench to pass an order in favour of clubbing all the FIRs.
Rohatgi referred to the MF Husain case where his paintings were said to have hurt religious feelings, but the Court had passed appropriate order.
Senior Counsel Siddharth Luthra, appearing for Amazon, said that the petitioner was being harassed for fictional characters. Moreover, when the objection was raised the content was removed. Further, Amazon and other OTT platforms, unlike Doordarshan, can be viewed only after there is viewer consent.
He further cited the TT Anthony and the Amish Devgan cases and submitted that the Court had itself ruled that there cannot be multiple FIRs for the same offence.
Advocate Siddharth Aggarwal, appearing for actor Zeeshan Ayub, submitted that he, as an actor, was duty-bound to play the fictional role and it has nothing to do with him as an individual.
Justice M.R. Shah was not satisfied with the counsel’s argument and said an actor cannot play the role of the script which hurts the religious sentiments of people.