The Punjab and Haryana High Court on April 23, 2019, in the case of Manjula Sahdev and others v. State of Punjab and another
, has quashed an FIR registered against author, Manjula Sahdev, who was accused of hurting religious sentiments of Balmiki community by referring Maharshi Valmiki as a dacoit in her book titled "Maharishi Balmik – Ekk Samastik Adhyan".
The judgment was passed by Justice Arvind Singh Sangwan
on a petition filed by the author. The impugned FIR was registered by a member of Balmiki Community, alleging that, the author in her book has referred Bhagwan Balmiki as a Dakoo and Lutera and thus has hurt the religious sentiments of the whole Balmiki community. While hearing the case, the court noted that, in this case, the FIR was registered after a gap of 29 years of the publication. Further, it was also noted that the book is a compilation based on the earlier publications made by different authors and that the complainant has not taken any action against those publishers who have made such publications.
Moreover, the court took into consideration the fact that the author in the concluding part of the book has concluded that it is difficult to hold that Maharishi Balmiki was a dacoit. Quashing the FIR, the court relied on the Supreme Court judgment in the case of S. Khushboo v. Kanniammal and another
, wherein it was held that it is not the task of the criminal law to punish the individuals merely for expressing unpopular views, unless it is proved that the accused has done it in a mala fide manner. The court also referred the apex court judgment in Priya Prakash Varrier and another v. State of Telangana and another
, in which it was held that when no calculated tendency is adopted by the accused to insult or disturb the public order to invite the wrath of Section 295-A
, it does not tantamount to insult or attempt to insult the religion or religious belief of a class of citizens. [Read Judgment]