The Rajasthan High Court on Monday ordered police to take no coercive action against Bollywood film director Prakash Jha over an FIR lodged against him allegedly for hurting Dalit sentiments by objectionable depiction of the community in his web series Ashram'. A Jodhpur bench of the high court gave the relief to the noted film director till the next hearing of his plea for quashing of FIR lodged against him at the Luni police station in Jodhpur.
A bench of Justice Manoj Kumar Garg also issued notices to the complainant and the state government seeking their replies to Jha's plea within six weeks. The FIR against Jha was lodged on the complaint objecting to a scene in the first episode of the web series that shows some upper caste people insulting and humiliating a Dalit community bridegroom proceeding in his wedding procession on a horse. Taking exception to the scene, the complainant had said that such a scene has not only insulted and humiliated the Dalit community but has also sought to encourage such abusive behaviour of the upper caste people. In the FIR against Jha, stringent charges under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 too have been invoked.
Seeking the court's order for quashing of the FIR, Jha's counsel Nishant Bora argued that the police did not have to invoke the stringent charges under the SC/ST Act as it was not a real case of anyone insulting anyone but only the portrayal of a fictional situation. Over the Ashram' web series, in which actor Bobby Deol has been cast in the central character of a self-styled godman, convicted to life imprisonment for raping a minor in his Ashram in a Jodhpur district village, Jha is also facing another plea pending before a Jodhpur court.
In the second plea, filed before the Jodhpur's additional district and sessions judge, Jha has been accused of hurting Hindu sentiments for allegedly depicting its religious saints in a bad light. The saint's portrayal as a rapist, corrupt and drug dealer has diminished the place, saints hold for Hindus, the complainant argued. The court, however, has refused to direct police to file an FIR and issued notices to Jha and Deol, seeking their replies to the allegations.