The Bombay High Court today granted protection from arrest to Sameet Thakkar who was booked for criticising Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray. The court granted him relief from arrest while hearing his petition seeking quashing an FIR filed against him at V P Marg police station on the allegations of obscenity and slander. A Division Bench of Justices SS Shinde and MS Karnik heard Thakkar’s petition through his counsel Dr Abhibnav Chandrachud.
Arguing on the charges of obscenity, Dr Chandrachud contended that obscenity under section 292 of the IPC meant only sexual obscenity or pornography and that mere abusive language did not amount to obscenity. “There are great works of literature that have abusive language within them”, he said. Quoting Justice V R Krishna Iyer’s words he said, “The dogs may bark but the caravan will pass”.
Responding to Dr Chandrachud’s contentions, Justice Karnik asked, “We ignore the harsh criticism that is often levelled against us, but what if others who are in power are not able to ignore it and are more sensitive?” To this Dr Chandrachud responded saying that those who occupy positions of power must develop a thick skin. Justice Shinde said, “What about the dignity of the post of the Chief Minister, that must be maintained”. Dr Chandrachud replied that the office of Chief Minister is such a high post that its dignity could not be reduced by a person on the streets or on Twitter who abuses the CM.
Additional Public Prosecutor SS Shinde told the court that the police has issued a notice to Thakkar under section 41-A of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) for the recording his statement but he is yet to appear. Dr Chandrachud said that his client Thakkar did not appear to record the statement fearing arrest.
The court directed the Additional Public Prosecutor not to arrest Thakkar as the notice was issued under section 41-A of the CrPC that does not contemplate arrest. The court said that the petitioner should not be arrested until the next date of hearing even if the police wished to add any cognizable offence in addition to the bailable offences that are there in the FIR.
Sunaina Holey granted protection from arrest
The case of activist Sunaina Holey, who was also booked by the Mumbai police for criticising CM Thackeray, had also come up for hearing before the same Bench. Holey was also represented by Dr Chandrachud who told the court that Holey could not record her statement before the police as was directed by the Court in the previous hearing because the Investigation Officer (IO) at the Azad Maidan police station, where she was required to record her statement, was found COVID-19 positive.
The court directed the Additional Public Prosecutor that a fresh notice should be issued to Holey once the IO recovers. The order also said that no coercive steps should be taken against her already directed in the previous order in the case.