Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Bombay HC dismisses Ranas plea to quash FIR: Hanuma Chalisa Row

Independent Lok Sabha MP Navneet Rana and her MLA husband Ravi Rani’s petition to quash one of the FIRs lodged against them in the Hanuman Chalisa row has been dismissed in the Bombay High Court. 

The petition has been dismissed by a bench comprising Justices PB Varale and SM Modak, citing that it was ‘devoid of merit’. 

“The people who are active in public life have greater responsibility…Great power comes with greater responsibility… The expectation of a response… it is not extra expectation…This is the minimum expectation …These are two independent independents and not a part of a series of events… We see no reason on merit to indulge…” the HC said, dismissing the petition.

On Saturday, the Khar police booked the Ranas under IPC Sections 153 (A) (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race etc), and 124A (sedition) which was allegedly added later, besides provisions of the Bombay Police Act. A second FIR was filed against the Ranas on Sunday under IPC Section 353 for alleged assault of a public servant to prevent him/her from doing official duty, to which the Ranas had taken exception and moved the court. 

In the petition filed by the Rana couple, the couple stated that multiple FIRs were filed against them and appealed to the bench to continue all proceedings in a single FIR.

Advocate Rizwan Merchant, appearing for Navneet & Ravi Rana, argued that the second FIR was an abuse of process and the subsequent addition of the offence was unsustainable.” My clients were arrested for 153A (incitement) and Bombay Police Act. Later,124A (sedition) was added, then why could they not add 353 (assault of a public servant) when it all occurred at the same time?” said Adv Merchant. 

Special Public Prosecutor Pradip Gharat in response said, “When the police reached there they argued with the police and showed their authority of being an MP and MLA. Therefore the second FIR was registered.”

“We find considerable merit in the submission of the Special Public Prosecutor. He was justified in making reference to the FIR, to the declaration of reciting religious versus in the personal residence of the Chief Minister. Such a declaration that a person would recite such religious versus at the residence of another person’s place or at a public place is a breach of the personal liberty of the other person. The state government is justified in the apprehension that it could create a law and order problem,” the Court observed in the order. 

However, it added, “As second FIR is registered against petitioners in case state government is desirous of initiating any action in pursuant to the second FIR, the officers of state government shall issue 72 hours notice to petitioners before taking such action.” The court did, however, also state that ‘the observations made in the present petition should not influence the bail hearing’.

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