Tandav Case: “Right to freedom of speech is not absolute. It is subjected to restrictions,” remarks SC

Jan27,2021 #Freedom of speech #Tandav

Umamageswari Maruthappan

While hearing the plea seeking to quash the FIRs filed against the cast and crew of Tandav web series, the Supreme Court orally commented that freedom of speech in India is with restrictions.

The Bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and MR Shah had made this remark on 27th January 2021.

The bench also expressed its displeasure on the petitioners for moving the Apex Court under Article 32 instead of going before the High Court. “You want the FIRs to be quashed, then why can’t you approach the High Courts?,” Justice Ashok Bhushan questioned.

However, Senior advocate Fali Nariman adduced Arnab Goswami’s case in response. “People are now offended by everything! The Petitioners reside in Bombay. Why will they go to different States. In Arnab Goswami, your Lordships stated that violation of 19(1)(a) could allow us to approach SC,” he submitted.

Advocate Siddharth Luthra had also contended the ill-treatment of the petitioners and their counsels including him.

Further, the Advocates for petitioners had also made a request to club all the FIRs into one, claiming that it is not a transfer request. The Bench accepted to consider the same.

Luthra cited the observations made in TT Anthony and Amish Devgan case that “there cannot be multiple FIRs”.

When the Advocates sought interim relief from coercive action citing Arnab Goswami’s case, the Bench rejected the same. “We cannot use the power under Section 482 CrPC. We are not inclined to grant interim protection,” the Bench said.

However, the Court granted them the right to seek bail. “Petitioners not precluded from approaching High Courts for anticipatory bail,” the Bench stated. When the petitioners insisted further, the Apex Court directed them to move the High Court.

The Apex Court also told the Police authorities to close the reports if apologies have been made and content removed. The statement was made following the submissions of the petitioners on this behalf.

FIRs were registered against the makers of the Tandav web series in at least six states including Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Karnataka, for allegedly hurting the sentiments of Hindus and for instigating religious hostility.

Following widespread protests, Saif Ali Khan staring in Tandav apologized.

The series’ crew include Ali Abbas Zafar (Director), Himanshu Mehra (Producer), Gaurav Solanki (Writer), Actor Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub and Head of Amazon India Originals, Aparna Purohit. They are allegedly being subject to harassment even after deleting the offensive scenes.

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