“Use of name ‘Tandav’ offensive, sentiments of majority community hurt:” Allahabad High Court rejects anticipatory bail plea of Aparna Purohit

The Allahabad High Court today rejected the bail plea filed by India Head of Amazon Prime Video, Aparna Purohit in the case registered against her in connection with the web series ‘Tandav’ in case of Aparna Purohit v. State of UP.

The Court said that the use of the word “Tandav” as name of the series can be offensive to the majority of the people in the country since it is associated with a particular act assigned to Lord Shiva.

While rejecting the plea, the Court noted that "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, when the object of the State is to bridge the gap between the different castes and communities."

Justice Siddharth said that there was a deliberate and malicious intention on the part of Purohit to outrage religious feelings, which would attract the offence under Section 153-A of the IPC.

Further, it was observed that the allegations for committing offences u/s 153-A(b) IPC are fully made out since the act of the applicant is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious, social and communal groups. It was noted that the scenes filmed in the series intentionally used “the names of Hindu Gods and sage to convey an insidious message.”

After examining the contentious scenes in the series, the Court said that “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.”

Court also said that Submission of apology or withdrawal of these scenes after they were streamed would not absolve the accused persons of the offence committed by them.

The Court also opined that there is an onerous duty on every citizen to respect the feelings of the people of other faiths even while making a work of fiction.

However, whenever such crimes are committed by some citizens of the country, like the applicant and her co-accused persons, it is made the subject matter of demonstration and public protest, the Court went on to note.

“The forces inimical to the interest of this country become active and they make it an issue and raise it before different national and international forums alleging that the Indian citizens have become intolerant and “India” has become unsafe place to live,” the judgment states.

The Court was also critical of the Bollywood film industry stating that while Western filmmakers have refrained from ridiculing Lord Jesus or the Prophet, Hindi filmmakers have done this “repeatedly and unabashedly with Hindu Gods and Goddesses.”

The judge said that a number of movies have been produced which have used the name of Hindu Gods and Goddesses and shown them in disrespectful mann (Ram Teri Ganga Maili, Satyam Shivam Sundram, PK, Oh My God, etc.).

“Not only this, efforts have been made to subvert the image of historical and mythological personalities (Padmavati). Names and icons of faith of majority community have been used to earn money (Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram Leela). 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.”

The Court also lamented that the young generation, which is not much aware of the social and cultural heritage of this country, will be swayed by what is shown in the movies by people like the accused persons. It will, thereby, destroys the “basic concept of the survival of this country having tremendous diversity of all kinds as a united nation.”

"Film industry in south has not indulged in such acts like Hindi film industry," the Court added.
The Court also adverted to the case of comedian Munawar Faruqui stating that he made comments on Hindu Gods and Goddesses.

“Things are worsening as is evident from the fact that an obscure stand-up comedian, Munawar Faruqui, from Gujarat made comments on Hindu God and Godesses in a new year show at Indore and gained undue publicity on being arrested in a case money in most brazen manner taking benefit of the liberal and tolerant tradition of country. The Apex Court has granted him relief recently after the same being denied by the High Court.”

Purohit, the Court concluded, acted irresponsibly, thus making her open to criminal prosecution in permitting streaming of a series which is against the fundamental rights of the majority of citizens of this country.

Therefore, it ruled that her fundamental right of life and liberty cannot be protected by grant of anticipatory bail.

Aparna Purohit had approached the High Court after a First Information Report (FIR) was filed by the Uttar Pradesh Police against her for offences under Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 295 (defiling place of worship), 295A (hurting religious sentiments), 505(1)(b), 505(2) (statements conducive to public mischief) of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Sections 66 and 67 of the Information Technology Act.

Aside from Purohit, FIRs were also registered against Director of Tandav, Ali Abbas Zafar, Producer Himanshu Mehra and Writer Gaurav Solanki.

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