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SC gives Prashant Bhushan protection from arrest against FIR for Ramayana, Mahabharata tweet

The bench directed the Gujarat Police not to take any coercive action against Bhushan on the basis of the FIR until further orders are issued and also sought its reply in two weeks.

SNS | New Delhi |

The Supreme Court Friday issued notice on a plea filed by noted lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who challenged FIR against him in Gujarat’s Rajkot for his tweet allegedly hurting Hindu religious sentiment, and sought its quashing.

The bench directed the Gujarat police not to take any coercive action against Bhushan on the basis of the FIR until further orders are issued. The top court also sought reply from Gujarat Police in two weeks.

A retired Army personnel Jaydev Joshi filed an FIR against Bhushan’s tweet, for hurting Hindu religious sentiment by using “opium” with Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Prashant Bhushan had tweeted that “as crores starve and walk hundreds of miles home due to forced lockdown, our heartless ministers celebrate consuming and feeding the opium of Ramayana and Mahabharata to the people.”

While he was referring to Kal Marx’s quote “Religion is the opium of the people,” where the government is running religious shows while the migrant labourers are facing hardships during the lockdown.

A bench comprising Justice Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna said “Anybody can watch anything on TV. How can you say people cannot watch this and that? How can you object to people watching TV?”

Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, representing Bhushan, said we are not on the people watching something on TV, instead we are on the FIR. Joshi, in his complaint, accused Bhushan of using word opium with Ramayana and Mahabharata in the tweet on March 28, which has hurt the sentiments of many Hindus. During the lockdown, Doordarshan (DD) began the telecast of Ramayana and Mahabharata.

The FIR was registered at the Bhaktinagar police station of Rajkot city on Sunday evening. Later, the investigation was transferred to the special operations group (SOG).

The FIR was registered under section 34 (criminal act done by several persons), 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage the religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or the religious beliefs), 505(1) (publishing or circulating any statement, rumour or report which can cause fear and alarm amongst people) and section 120 -B (criminal conspiracy of the Indian Penal Code.

Bhushan has argued that neither of these charges are correct, and that the FIR against him violates his right to free speech .