- A FIR was lodged against the members of the Dastaan Live Band in Panaji, Goa.
- The FIR was registered under section 295A and 34 of IPC and the complainant stated that the band has hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus.
- The division bench after looking into the matter quashed the FIR and commented on the incident stating that the action of the Goa police was an unwarranted assault on the creativity and freedom of speech and expression.
- On 17th December 2019 a live performance was given by Dastaan Live Band during Goa Serendipity Arts Festival in Campal, Panaji, Goa.
- The very next day a complaint was filed in a police station in Goa against the four band members of Dastaan Live comprising of musicians named Sumant Balakrishnan, Ariban Ghosh, Shiv Pathak and Nirmala Ravidera to render an apology.
- The complainant named Venkat Krishna Kunduru, a Supreme Court lawyer stated in his complaint that the band has hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus by using the word ‘OM’ along with mixing the phrase ‘Ullu Ka Pattha’ which according to him is an abusive language.
- The lyrics of the poem which the complainant found to be objectionable and hurtful was as following - “Om Mahamahim, Mahamaho, Ullu K Pattho.”
- The poem named ‘Mantra Kavita’ which was initially composed in 1969 by Vaidyanath Misra (Pen name- Baba Nagarguna) was a prominent Hindi poet famous for his writings in the 60s and 70s era was performed by the band during the live performance.
- It is to be noted that the band did not change the lyrics and sang the poem as it was originally composed by the late poet during the live performance. Also, it is said that the poem has a deep meaning that can’t be easily understood by all and for which the poem needs to be read as a whole to understand the meaning and context in which words are used in the poem.
- The band members were arrested but were later given bail on the condition that they would co-operate during the investigation.
COURT OBSERVATIONS & VERDICT
- The band members filed a petition challenging the FIR in the division bench of Bombay HC in Goa and complained that the FIR did not disclose the offences and it is an abuse of criminal process for which the court needs to step in.
- The counsel appearing for the petitioners said that the complaint is driven by political interest and to defame and smear the reputation of the band. While the additional public prosecutor said that if the word ‘OM’ is used with phrases like ‘ullu k pattho’ it first the religious sentiments of Hindus.
- The court while interpreting section 295A said that unknowing or non-deliberate insult to religion without any intentions to hurt any religious sentiments does not attract the offence and does not come under the ambit of section 295A.
- The court also noted that the FIR was registered so hurriedly that the police officers did not even look into the ingredients of section 295A that whether it amounts to an offence under that section also there was no justification whatsoever.
- The court said though the police have the power it cannot use it to arrest people without any reasonable explanation on sheer suspicion.
- The court quashed the FIR and was quoted as saying that it is right to say that this was an unwarranted attack on creativity and freedom of speech and expression.
It is true that in the name of creative liberty one should not go to such an extent that may hurt anybody's religious sentiments. But sometimes when the words of the writer are misinterpreted or understood in a wrong manner it can lead to wrong assumptions and in extreme cases, people might think that their religious sentiments are hurt.
We have come to a point where many things are taken very sensitively and people are growing intolerant. The things which once upon a time were never thought of by people as demeaning or hurtful are now pointed out as religiously hurtful.
Nowadays if one spots any religious wordings being used by anyone, one becomes quite alert in case they can find any fault or can relate anything as being religiously hurtful.
Do you think a person should be jailed even if he had no intentions of hurting anyone's religious sentiments? Yes or No Comment below.