Synopsis: The Court considered that if one FIR is kept alive and all other witness statements are made according to Section 162 of the CrPC, the investigation may be carried out without multiple proceedings.
In the plea of journalist Amish Devgan seeking to quash FIRs filed against him after he referred to Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, a Sufi saint, as a ‘lootera’ in one of his shows, a two-judge bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Sanjiv Khanna on Friday, reserved its judgment.
In arguing for Devgan, Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra argued that there was no “incitement to hatred” or any effort to “instigate a specific community against the other.”
One of the primary arguments before the Bench concerned whether “mens rea” was in the act of citing the name of Khwaja Chishti on the show.
Luthra argued that there was no intention or malice and also that none of the FIRs on the part of the petitioner alleged any mens rea.
The Supreme Court acknowledged, however, that the FIRs were still speaking about explicit intent and that “even one word has the power to threaten public order.”
Furthermore, Senior Advocate Luthra argued that Devgan would be entitled to a benefit under Section 95 of the IPC because the inadvertent slip of the tongue that led to the name of the Sufi Saint may have caused only “slight harm.”
The Bench also pondered whether Devgan’s apology through twitter and a video message was an afterthought following social media criticism or whether it was a genuine face-saving exercise.
Luthra said that on June 16 the show was broadcast and the apology was tendered by June 17, at 12 a.m.
However, the Bench stated that before the apology, the FIR was already registered.
Luthra submitted, referring to the first FIR in Ajmer, that the complainant in Ajmer himself did not watch the show and only went through what people commented on it.
Senior Advocate Dr Manish Singhvi, appearing for the State of Rajasthan, argued that whether the apology was an afterthought or not should be investigated instead of quashing FIR.
In the Ajmer case, senior lawyer Sushil Jain, appearing for the complainant, argued that the debate was not” regulated “by Devgan and that, as under the Cable TV Network Regulation Act, it was in breach of the programme code.
While reserving the order, the High Court granted Amish Devgan one week time to file written submissions, and after that it gave the complainants another week to file a reply.