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Attempt to involve an ideology without any basis: Madhya Pradesh HC refuses to quash FIR against singer Neha Singh Rathore, questions use of RSS shorts in her cartoon

The court noted that it had asked her counsel to clarify whether he was wearing the same clothing as represented in the cartoon in the ruling dated 15th May.

The Madhya Pradesh High Court has refused to quash the FIR against Bhojpuri singer Neha Singh Rathore over a tweet referencing a viral video which featured a man urinating on a tribal labourer in Sidhi, reported Bar and Bench. Judge Gurpal Singh Ahluwalia questioned the singer’s decision to include the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Khaki shorts as part of a “particular ideology” in the cartoon which she uploaded online, considering that the accused individual did not wear the same outfit.

“Since the cartoon which was uploaded by the applicant on her Twitter and Instagram account was not in accordance with the incident which had taken place and certain additional things were added by the applicant on her own, this Court is of the considered opinion that it cannot be said that the applicant had uploaded the cartoon by exercising her fundamental right of free speech and expression,” pronounced the court.

The court further stated that reasonable limitations apply to the basic right to free speech and expression, making it a non-absolute right. It highlighted, “Although an artist must have the liberty to criticize through satire but adding a particular dress in the cartoon cannot be said to be a satire. The attempt of the applicant was to involve a group of particular ideology without any basis. Therefore, it would not come within the purview of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India and even a satirical expression may be prohibited under Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India.”

The folk singer from Uttar Pradesh was charged last year under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which prohibits inciting hatred between groups based on differences in religion, race, place of birth or place of residence. The incident occurred after she shared a cartoon on social media that depicted a person in a semi-naked state urinating on a person who was seated on the ground. The cartoon also included a half-pant in khaki, or a yellowish-brown colour, lying on the ground. This served as a metaphor for the accused Parvesh Shukla’s purported affiliation with the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Her attorney requested that the FIR be quashed on the grounds that there was no evidence of an offence under Section 153A of the IPC. The state, however, disagreed with the request, claiming that Parvesh Shukla was the target of the National Security Act because of the incident’s escalation of tension. The court noted that it had asked her counsel to clarify whether he was wearing the same clothing as represented in the cartoon in the ruling dated 15th May.

The court pointed out, “It was fairly conceded by counsel for the applicant that the cartoon which has been uploaded by the applicant was not in accordance with the actual incident and certain dress was included which the accused was not wearing at the time of the incident.”

The court observed that the reason she put the specific outfit to the cartoon would be determined during the trial and conveyed, “The addition of a particular dress was indicative of the fact that applicant wanted to communicate that the offence was committed by a person belonging to a particular ideology. Thus, it was a clear case of making an attempt to disrupt harmony and to provoke the feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will.”

She argued that she had no purpose of encouraging animosity, but the court rejected this claim, holding that her defence must be established in court. Consequently, it declined to have the First Information Report (FIR) against her quashed. “Considering the totality of facts and circumstances of the case, this Court is of considered opinion that no case is made out warranting interference,” it added.

A one-year-old video of a man named Pravesh Shukla from Sidhi urinating on the head of a tribal person named Dashmat Rawat in Madhya Pradesh went viral on 4th July 2023. The Madhya Pradesh police arrested the accused and initiated strict action against him. Meanwhile, the then Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan met Dashrath Rawat, apologised to him and washed his feet at his official residence in Bhopal. Pravesh Shukla’s house was also razed by the authorities on the chief minister’s order.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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