The makers and an actor of Amazon Prime web series “Tandav”, who had appealed for protection against arrest, were rejected of any relief from the Supreme Court today. On Wednesday, the filmmakers of ‘Tandav’ told the Top Court that there is ‘nothing in the case now’ as the ‘so-called’ hurtful religious content has been removed.
At least three cases have been lodged in Uttar Pradesh against the makers of ‘Tandav’ for hurting religious sentiments by an inappropriate depiction of UP Police personnel and deities, and an adverse portrayal of a character playing the role of prime minister. Similar cases have been lodged against the series in other states including Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Bihar, Delhi and Chandigarh.
The hearing of the ‘Tandav’ case
‘Tandav’ has been facing a backlash and criminal cases for ‘hurting religious sentiments’ and insulting religion punishable under Sections 153A and 295 of Indian Penal Code(IPC).
The case was heard by a bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, RS Reddy and MR Shah. “Your right to freedom of speech is not absolute. You cannot play the role of character that hurts the sentiments of a community,” the bench said.
The Supreme Court was hearing a bunch of petitions seeking quashing of criminal complaints lodged in various states against Ali Abbas Zafar, the Director of the web series, and others for allegedly hurting the religious sentiments.
Besides Zafar and Purohit, producer Himanshu Mehra, the show’s writer Gaurav Solanki and actor Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub had also filed three separate petitions against the registration of FIRs in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra.
In their petition, they also mentioned how facing prosecution in various states involved harassment and wanted the intervention of the Supreme Court to transfer the FIR to Mumbai. The court has agreed to consider the second request of the petitioners, who were being represented by senior Lawyers Fali Nariman, Mukul Rohatgi and Sidharth Luthra.
The series is only a “political satire”
Lawyer Fali Nariman pointed out that the makers of the series have already apologised, and have removed the religious content from the series. The series is only a “political satire”, said Mukul Rohatgi. In this context, he also quoted the case involving the Republic editor Arnab Goswami, where the court granted him protection from arrest, upholding “personal liberty” of citizens.
Today, as lawyers argued the question of freedom of speech and expression, Justice MR Shah said, “Right to freedom of speech is not absolute ”
Actor Zeeshan Ayub’s lawyer argued that his client was just an actor working under a contract, and the views expressed were that of the character in the series. “You accepted the contract after reading the script. You cannot hurt religious sentiments,” Justice Shah said.
The court refused to allow interim protection and asked the petitioners to approach High Court for anticipatory bail or quashing of FIRs. Court also issued a notice on plea to club several FIRs registered against them across the country.
Read more about the web series here: TANDAV: A DIM-WITTED TALE?