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What Bombay HC said as it quashed FIR, slammed Goa Police for booking musicians?

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Panaji, April 10, 2021-
The Bombay High Court in Goa has slammed the Goa Police for hurriedly filing an FIR and arresting members of a band ‘Dastaan Live’, during an arts festival last year for allegedly hurting religious sentiments.

The Court also quashed an FIR filed at the Panaji police station against four members of the band in 2019.

In their order, a division bend of Justices M.S. Sonak and M.S. Jawalkar said that police need to be sensitive, whenever “freedom of speech and expression” is at stake.

“There was no justification whatsoever for the police inspector to hurriedly register such an FIR, possibly without even going into the complaint or for that matter the provisions of Section 295-A of the IPC,” the Bombay High Court bench order states.

“The police authorities are expected to be quite sensitive in such matters, because what is at stake is the freedom of speech and expression. Therefore, unless the complaint discloses the ingredients of the offense under section 295-A of IPC, it is not expected of the Police authorities to rush and register an FIR in such cases,” it also adds.

‘Dastaan Live’s’ four artists, namely Sumant Balakrishnan, Anirban Ghosh, Shiva Pathak and Nirmala Ravindera, who were performing as part of a musical show curated by well known Bollywood music director Sneha Khanwalkar were arrested under section 295-A of the Indian Penal Code (outraging religious feelings) on Wednesday, following a complaint by a local resident.

Kunduru in his complaint had alleged that members of the Dastaan Live band during a concert in Panaji late on Tuesday, insulted the “Hindu religion by chanting Om with abusive languages like ‘Ullu ka Pattha’ and displayed walks of life with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of Hindu citizens”. The four artists were later released on bail.

The High Court order has questioned the police action against the band members, who were commissioned to play at the Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa.

“There was no justification whatsoever to call some of the petitioners to the Police Station and require them to apologize or to arrest them, no sooner the FIR was registered,” the order states.

“To simply allege that ‘OM’ which is a symbol of the complainant’s faith ‘in negative narrative’ or abusing people chanting the OM and followers to Hindu stream as ‘Ullu ke Patta’ is by no means sufficient to spell out the ingredients of Section 295-A of the IPC. Further, to allege blasphemy of my religion and sentiment of hundred crores of India and few million abroad’ also does not spell out the ingredients of Section 295-A of the IPC,” it also said.

The order also states that the police perhaps had not even bothered to read the contents of the complaint and registered it as a First Information Report, the moment it was lodged with the police station.

“The complainant, when he lodged the complaint, had not even bothered to supply the full extract of that composition to the police authorities. Even the police authorities registered the FIR, literally the minute the same was lodged, perhaps, without even bothering to either read the complaint or the provisions of section 295-A of the IPC. The FIR records that the same was lodged at 13:17 hours on December 18, 2019, and the same recorded also at 13:17 hours on the same date,” the order said, adding that police could not summon citizens to a police station and “demand apologies of this nature”. (Agency)

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