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Tandav: Allahabad HC refuses anticipatory bail to Amazon India’s Aparna Purohit

The FIR alleged that Ali Abbas Zafar directed Tandav is affecting the image of the UP Police adversely.

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The Allahabad High Court on Thursday refused to grant anticipatory bail to Aparna Purohit, the Head of India Originals at Amazon Sellers Service Pvt Ltd, which is showing Tandava web series online.

A single-judge bench of Justice Siddharth passed this order while hearing a Criminal Misc. Anticipatory Bail Application U/S 438 CrPC.

The anticipatory bail application has been filed with a prayer to grant anticipatory bail to Aparna Purohit in the case under Sections- 153(A)(1)(b), 295-A, 505(1)(b) 505(2) I.P.C., Section 66 and 67 of the Information Technology Act and Section 3(1)(r) of S.C./S.T. Act, Police Station- Rabupura, Greater Noida, District- Gautam Buddh Nagar.

The allegation in the FIR lodged against the applicant and six other co-accused persons is that a web series is being shown on Amazon Prime Video, which is an online movie OTT platform and on January 16, 2021, the movie part-1, Tandav has been broadcast.

The web series is being shown through Amazon Prime Video through Head of India Originals, as paid movie. The movie has been directed by co-accused, Ali Abbas Zafar. The content of this movie is affecting the image of the Uttar Pradesh Police adversely. In a Dial 100 police vehicle, two actors are shown travelling with open doors in a police uniform, consuming liqour and hurling abuses.

The shooting has taken place in District Gautam Buddh Nagar. After witnessing part-1 of the movie, it is seen that Hindu gods and goddesses have been depicted in a bad light with the intention of inciting communal sentiments.

The 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.

Similarly, 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 and there are scenes which show disrespect for the scheduled castes.

On account of the scenes and dialogues in the movie, the social harmony and public peace is being adversely affected. All this has been deliberately done to make the web series controversial and gain publicity for the purpose of commercial gain.

Hence, the FIR has been lodged against the producer/director and actors/actresses of the movie series.

Aparna Purohit’s Senior Counsel submitted that the web series in dispute is a work of fiction and all the places, events, characters and incidents are imagination of the author.

A disclaimer is included in the movie in this regard. The cast and crew of the web series Tandav issued an unconditional apology on January 18, 2021 and have removed the offensive scenes and now there is no offensive material in the series.

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The applicant along with other co-accused persons filed a petition under Articles 32 of the Constitution of India before the Apex Court praying for quashing of number of FIRs and complaint cases lodged against the applicant and other co-accused persons on January 27, 2021.

Notices have been issued to the opposite parties, leaving it open for the accused persons to approach the High Court of the state for grant of bail/anticipatory bail. Hence, the applicant is before this Court.

He has further submitted that the lodging of FIR u/s 295-A of Indian Penal Code is bad in law since there was no deliberate and malicious intention in the movie aimed at insulting religious beliefs of any class of citizens.

The series is a work of fiction and it has nothing to do with the religious beliefs of anyone.

The A.G.A. appearing on behalf of the State of Uttar Pradesh has vehemently opposed the application. He has submitted that total 10 FIRs and 4 criminal complaints have been filed relating to the disputed web series in the country.

It has come to the notice of this Court that the applicant has filed another anticipatory bail application being Criminal Misc. Anticipatory Bail Application U/S 438 under the The Code Of Criminal Procedure before this Court with regard to another such FIR lodged at P.S. Hazratganj, Lucknow.

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She was granted interim protection from arrest by the order dated on February 11, 2021 by a co-ordinate Bench but she was not co-operating with the investigation. On February 22, this Court has directed her to appear before the Investigating Officer of police station concerned on February 23, 2021.

This conduct of the applicant shows that she has scant respect for the law of the land and her conduct further disentitles her to any relief from this Court, since co-operation with investigation is a necessary condition for grant of Anticipatory bail.

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