Ascertaining Motive To Commit Offence Part Of Probe, Says SC, Reserves Order On TV Anchor Plea
The Supreme Court, hearing a plea of TV news anchor Amish Devgan seeking quashing of FIRs lodged against him for his alleged remarks on a Sufi saint, Friday observed that whether a person has the intention to commit an offence is a matter of investigation as one word can cause public disorder. Devgan, against whom several FIRs have been filed in various states over his alleged defamatory remark against Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti during a show telecast on June 15, told the apex court that none of the FIR says that public order was being disturbed and moreover, he had already expressed regret over the issue.
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New Delhi: The Supreme Court, hearing a plea of TV news anchor Amish Devgan seeking quashing of FIRs lodged against him for his alleged remarks on a Sufi saint, Friday observed that whether a person has the intention to commit an offence is a matter of investigation as one word can cause public disorder. Devgan, against whom several FIRs have been filed in various states over his alleged defamatory remark against Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti during a show telecast on June 15, told the apex court that none of the FIR says that public order was being disturbed and moreover, he had already expressed regret over the issue.
A bench comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and Sanjiv Khanna, which has granted protection to Devgan from any coercive action in connection with the FIRs, heard lawyers of the journalist and the states where cases have been filed and reserved the verdict in the case. Heard counsel for the parties. Arguments concluded. Judgment reserved. One week’s time is granted to the petitioner to file written submissions from today, and thereafter, respondent(s)/intervenor(s) are granted one week’s time to file written submissions, the bench said.
Senior lawyer Siddharth Luthra and advocate Mrinal Bharti appeared for Devgan and said that the intention to disturb the law and order or public order or the tranulilty has to be there on the part of the accused and this vital part of an offence was missing in the case. Whether you had intention or not is a matter of investigation and not for quashing the FIRs, the bench said, adding, Even one word can cause public disorder, but that is a subject matter of probe.
Luthra also relied upon the recent apex court judgement in the case of Arnab Goswami in which it had allowed only one case to continue in connection with the reporting of the Palghar mob lynching and rest other FIRs or complaints were quashed. He said that for one incident, several FIRs in different states cannot be lodged against Devgan. The Court has to check whether the occurrence is of the same incident, and therefore, the test that it is the same must be applied. If the answer is yes, then the second FIR is liable to be quashed and in our case, every FIR relates to the same incident of 15 June, nothing else..
“I am in Noida. The offence is in Noida, then how am I being dragged around the country. That was the principle in Arnab Goswami, on which other FIRs were quashed. Next there was an apology, Luthra argued and referred to various judgements. The plea was opposed by senior advocate Manish Singhvi, appearing for Rajasthan, saying the entire concept of mens rea (motive) cannot be looked into at this preliminary stage. There has to be a probe investigation that will conclude whether there was malicious intent or notThe FIR cannot be quashed.
The apex court has been extending the protection from any coercive action to the journalist. Several FIRs have been lodged against Devgan in Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Telangana for using a derogatory term for the Sufi saint in the news debate show called ‘Aar Paar’ on his channel on June 15.
Devgan, in his plea, has sought quashing of the FIRs, stay on the investigation and the protection from any coercive action for his alleged comments against the sufi saint. However, he later tweeted an apology saying that he was actually referring to Muslim ruler Alauddin Khilji and inadvertently ended up naming Chisti.
The apex court, while granting interim relief to Devgan, had also stayed the probe in the cases related to the June 15 telecast against the journalist. Devgan said he has already issued a clarification through a tweet and moreover, errors cannot be construed as criminal offences.
The journalist has said the plea concerned his life and liberty. In a well-orchestrated manner – the petitioner has been made a victim of country-wide filing of false and baseless criminal complaint and FIRs on the one hand, and on the other hand, petitioner, his family and his crew has been abused unabashedly on social media and by personal messages by unknown persons. The petitioner has also received several death threats from various anti-social elements, the plea submitted.
It said that Devgan was holding a discussion on a petition filed before the top court on his show on June 15 on the issue of the Places of Worship Special Provisions Act. During the course of the live heated discussion one of the panellists quoted Chisti (Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti) and inadvertently, petitioner (Devgan) who wanted to refer to the historical figure Khilji(Alauddin Khilji) as a marauder, mentioned the name ‘Chisti’, the plea submitted.
That immediately on realising his inadvertent slip of tongue during heated debate in his news debate show petitioner tendered a clarification and clarified that the name Chisti was mentioned by error and inadvertently, it said. Devgan tweeted the clarification on his personal Twitter account on the intervening night of June 16-17 and moreover, the channel carried a video clarification featuring the journalist, the plea said.
One of the FIRs was lodged at Pydhonie police station in Mumbai against Devgan for allegedly hurting religious sentiments by referring to Chisti in derogatory terms in the TV programme on the complaint of Arif Razvi, general secretary of the Raza Academy.
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