Munawar Faruqui, the stand-up comedian who was arrested on January 1 on the accusation of “hurting religious sentiments” while performing at a show in Indore, on Thursday was denied bail once again by the Madhya Pradesh High Court, reported Live Law.
Justice Rohit Arya, who on Monday reserved its order on Faruqui’s bail hearing, said on Thursday that in regard to “the material seized and the statements of the witnesses and that the investigation is in progress, no case is made out for grant of bail”.
On January 1, Faruqui was performing at The Monroe Cafe along with three other Indore-based comedians Prakhar Vyas, Priyam Vyas and Nalin Yadav. The complaint has been filed by local BJP legislator Malini Laxman Singh Gaur’s son Aklavya Gaur Singh, who claimed to be the head of a youth organisation named Hind Rakshak, who disrupted and stopped the show along with a few associates as soon as Faruqui went on stage to perform.
In his complaint, Aklavya Gaur Singh said that Faruqui had hurt religious sentiments and made indecent remarks about Hindu deities and against Union Home Minister Amit Shah. While speaking to Silverscreen India, an audience member said that though Faruqui was patiently talking to Aklavya Singh Gaur and requested him to watch the show, the MLA’s son stopped him from performing, created a ruckus and called the police. He also mentioned that Faruqui and other audience members were manhandled, beaten and slapped in the presence of the police.
A case was initially filed against Faruqui’s performance on the basis of a video evidence that Aklavya Gaur Singh claimed to have submitted. However, the thana incharge of Tukoganj police station, where Faruqui was initially taken in custody, said that the video consisted of old videos of the comedian from his YouTube channel. Aklavya Singh Gaur then claimed that he overheard Faruqui’s rehearsal jokes and that he was “going to” perform them.
There is no electronic evidence for the claim, Superintendent of Police Vijay Khatri said. While Faruqui made no such jokes, there was “oral evidence” from the complainant, Khatri had added.
Thursday’s hearing marks the fourth rejection of Faruqui’s bail plea along with his co-accused. The first rejection was by the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate on January 2, followed by the second rejection by the Additional District and Sessions Court judge Yatindra Kumar Guru on January 5. His bail plea was rejected for the third time on January 15, when the hearing was postponed as the police failed to produce the case diary in the court. On Monday, the court had reserved its orders on his bail application and said: “such people must not be spared”.
During the 15-minute-long hearing on Monday, a single bench of Justice Rohit Arya asked: “Why you take undue advantage of other’s religious sentiments and emotions. What is wrong with your mindset? How can you do this for the purpose of your business?” In return to which activist Saket Gokhale had filed a petition on Tuesday to the Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court urging that the comedian’s bail application be heard by a bench other than Justice Arya in the “interest of justice and fairness” claiming that it is in the “public interest in light of the observations.”
Gokhale in his letter pointed out the oral remarks reportedly made by Justice Arya during Monday’s hearing which was stated to “carry a presumption of guilt on the part of the accused” even before a charge sheet has been filed or any trial has begun against the accused.
Regarding Munnawar Faruqui's bail application:
I've filed a letter petition with Hon'ble Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court praying that the judge/bench hearing the matter be re-assigned in public interest in light of the observations & proceedings of yesterday. pic.twitter.com/Qr88mcwTCD
— Saket Gokhale (@SaketGokhale) January 26, 2021
Claiming it to be an ongoing case, Justice Arya said on Thursday that a possibility of more “incriminating material” can not be ruled out at the moment as the investigations were still on. The court also referred to a recent case registered against Faruqui at Uttar Pradesh’s Georgetown Police Station seeking Faruqui’s custody against statements made by him in May 2020.