The Punjab and Haryana High Court on April 29, 2019, has imposed fine of Rupees Ten Lakhs each on musician Vishal Dadlani and political activist Tehseen Poonawala for ‘insulting’ Jain Saint Tarun Sagar in a series of tweets in 2016, even though the court quashed criminal cases registered against them as no criminal offence was made out in the case.
Justice Arvind Singh Sangwan passed the judgment on two petitions filed by Dadlani and Poonawala praying for quashing of the FIR registered on the basis of a complaint filed by one Puneet Arora under Sections 295-A, 153-A and 509 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and Section 66E of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
Vishal Dadlani, in his tweets, had criticized Tarun Sagar’s nude appearance as well as the action of the Haryana Government in calling a religious Guru in the Legislative Assembly. Tehseen Poonawala had put semi nude photograph of a lady by way of a Photoshop with the Jain saint and has raised a finger towards his character by comparing him with a slut.
The court observed that the duo have not only insulted Jain Muni but have also hurt the sentiments of the followers of Jain religion. Imposing the fine, the court said that “In recent years, the country has witnessed large scale violent protest on incitement made by using social media platform, thereby, causing extensive damage to public property. However, the preachings of Jain Muni Tarun Sagar about non-violence, sacrifices and forgiveness, has avoided repetition of such like protest. Therefore, it would be appropriate to impose the costs of `10 lacs each on the petitioner – Vishal Dadlani and the petitioner – Tehseen Poonawala, so that in future they may not mock at any head of a religious sect, just to gain publicity on social media like Twitter.”
The court, however, quashed the FIR, on noting the following facts:-
- Nothing is mentioned in complaint that the complainant is a follower of Jain religion.
- Vishal Dadlani appeared before the Jain Muni Tarun Sagar to obtain his blessings, he forgave him and had issued a similar dictum to his follower and therefore, none of the follower of Jain religion opted to prosecute them, either by way of filing a police complaint or a complaint before the competent Court of Law. It is also stated that none of the follower has made any statement in support of the FIR.
- From the bare perusal of the FIR, offence under Section 295-A IPC is not made out.
- FIR, nowhere reflects that there was mens rea on the part of the petitioners to promote any such enmity as defined under Section 153-A IPC
- Though, Tehseen Poonawala, he has put a photograph of an unknown lady in semi nude condition with the photograph of Jain Muni Tarun Sagar and it is stated that if the Jain Muni can walk naked then why a woman should be called a slut, however, the same is not intended to insult any woman in particular as the offence under Section 509 of IPC referred to intending to insult the modesty of any woman.
- No offence under Section 66E of the Information Technology Act, 2000 is made out from the bare perusal of the FIR.
The court directed Poonawala to deposit 5 Lakhs with the Tarun Kranti Manch Trust (Regd.) (a Trust created by late Jain Muni Tarun Sagar) and another 5 lakhs with the Poor Patient’s Fund (Prabh Aasra) in Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (P.G.I.M.E.R.) at Chandigarh. Vishal Dadlani was directed to deposit the fine of 5 Lakhs with the Shri Digamber Jain Mandir Trust, Sector 27, Chandigarh and 5 lakhs with the Punjab and Haryana High Court Advocates Welfare Fund.
Accordingly, the court allowed the petitions. The FIR and all other proceedings arising therefrom are ordered to be quashed subject to payment of costs on or before September 1, 2019, failing which these petitions will be deemed to be dismissed, the court said.