A single-judge bench of the Punjab and Haryana high court on Thursday stayed the trial court proceedings in FIRs (first information reports) registered against comedian Kiku Sharda for allegedly mimicking Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda’s head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.
The bench of justice Rajesh Bindal also directed Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh to grant anticipatory bail to Sharda if any FIR is registered in the matter under their areas of jurisdiction.
The high court order came on a petition filed by Sharda, seeking quashing of FIRs registered by the Haryana police in Fatehabad and Kaithal districts on the complaints of two dera followers on December 31, 2015, and January 1, 2016, respectively.
The bench also sought a response from the station house officers of both police stations where cases were lodged, the complainants and the Haryana government.
The actor is accused of mimicking the dera head in ‘Jashane-Umeed’, a programme aired on a private TV channel on December 27, 2015.
Sharda has alleged that multiple FIRs had been lodged by dera followers in an orchestrated manner with a view to harass, humiliate and terrorise him. “It is apparently an attack on the fundamental rights of the petitioner and others as enshrined under Article 19(1)(a) and 21 of the Constitution,” Sharda has argued before the court.
The court was told that the FIRs state that the complainants were followers of a reputed socio-spiritual organisation, Dera Sacha Sauda, that preached and practised humanitarianism and selfless services to others. “From the FIRs, it is clear that the ingredients of ‘religion’ as required under Section 295A (hurting religious sentiments) of the Indian Penal Code are not fulfilled. Apparently, the offending programme was a work of art and a dramatic presentation displayed on the electronic media,” Kiku has said.
“Ram Rahim’s followers are entitled to their perception. However, the non-followers, other citizens and creative artists are not bound to treat Ram Rahim as his holiness,” argued senior advocate RS Cheema, appearing for Kiku. The matter would be taken up on February 4.