The Supreme Court on Wednesday (September 23, 2020) extended protection to TV news anchor Amish Devgan against any coercive action in cases lodged over his alleged defamatory remark against Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti during a show telecast on June 15, 2020.
A bench comprising justices A M Khanwilkar and Sanjiv Khanna asked Devgan's counsel to complete the pleadings in the case by serving copies of the petition to those who had filed complaints against the journalist in various states.
Senior advocate Sidhharth Luthra and lawyer Mrinal Bharti appeared for Devgan in the hearing conducted through a video link by the court, which extended the relief granted on June 26 to Devgan till further orders.
Five FIRs have been lodged against Devgan in Rajasthan, Maharashtra, 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.
However, he later tweeted an apology saying that he was actually referring to Muslim ruler Alauddin Khilji and inadvertently ended up naming Chisti.
Devgan moved the top court seeking a stay on the probe in criminal cases besides seeking their quashing. The court had stayed the pending or future probes in the case against the journalist by police agencies till Wednesday.
As regards the interim relief, till the next date of hearing, we deem it appropriate to pass ad-interim relief in terms of prayer clause (A) and (B) (which seek a stay of investigation in pending and future FIRs and the protection from possible coercive action), the top court had said in the order.
Issuing notices to Maharashtra, Telangana, and Rajasthan, the bench had asked Bharti to make the complainants, who have lodged FIRs, as parties to his petition and had listed the case for hearing on today.
Two FIRs for the alleged offence have been registered at Ajmer and Kota in Rajasthan and one has been lodged at Bahadurpura in Hyderabad, the plea said, adding that two such FIRs have been lodged at Nanded and Pydhonie in Maharashtra.
Devgan said he has already issued a clarification through a tweet and moreover, errors cannot be construed as criminal offences.
The journalist said that the plea concerned the life and liberty of the journalist. In a well-orchestrated manner - the Petitioner has been made a victim of country-wide filing of false and baseless Criminal Complaints and FIRs on one hand and on the other hand Petitioner, his family, and his crew have been abused unabashedly on the social media and by personal messages by unknown persons. The Petitioner has also received several death threats from various anti-social elements, the plea said.
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 panelists 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 said.
That immediately on realizing his inadvertent slip of the tongue during a 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 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 saint Chisti in derogatory terms in the TV program on the complaint of Arif Razvi, general secretary of Raza Academy.