Tandav controversy: Amazon Prime executive’s bail plea rejected by Allahabad HC
The Allahabad high court on Thursday rejected anticipatory bail to a top Amazon Prime Video executive in a case against web series Tandav, saying that the Hindi film industry’s tendency of insulting Hindu gods could have disastrous consequences for India.
A single-judge bench of justice Siddharth rejected the application of Amazon Prime Video’s Aparna Purohit in connection with the ongoing investigation against Tandav for allegedly outraging religious feelings and showing Hindu gods in poor light. The court held that Purohit was granted protection from arrest on February 11, but failed to cooperate with the investigation.
Tandav is facing at least 10 FIRs for hurting religious sentiments, intending to disturb caste and communal amity – charges punishable under Sections 153A and 295 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) with a maximum jail term of three years.
“Western filmmakers have refrained from ridiculing Lord Jesus or the Prophet but Hindi filmmakers have done this repeatedly and are still doing this most unabashedly with the Hindu Gods and Goddesses,” the court observed. “This tendency on the part of the Hindi film industry is growing and if not curbed in time, it may have disastrous consequences for the Indian social, religious and communal order. There appears to be a design behind such acts on the part of the people who just give a disclaimer in all the films and depict things in the movies which are really religiously, socially and communally offensive in nature,” the court added.
The judge further observed that the young generation has started believing what is shown in movies. “It destroys the basic concept of the survival of this country having tremendous diversity of all kinds as a united nation. Film industry in south has not indulged in such acts like the Hindi film industry,” the court said.
The political thriller starring Bollywood actors Saif Ali Khan, Dimple Kapadia and Ayyub, started streaming earlier this year but quickly ran into controversy. On January 19, an FIR was lodged in Greater Noida that alleged the series depicted Uttar Pradesh and its police in poor light and deliberately denigrated Hindu deities. The complaint further alleged the Prime Minister was depicted in the series as opposing democratic norms and comments were used to disturb caste and communal amity. The show’s creators and actors said they didn’t intend to hurt any sentiments and that the depictions were fictional.
The makers, producers and actors of the show approached the Supreme Court but were denied relief on January 27, with the court holding that freedom to speech was not an absolute right and that no actor could hide behind a script and a role to escape culpability under the law. On February 4, the Allahabad high court granted interim protection from arrest to Purohit.
But on Thursday, justice Siddharth came down heavily on the streaming platform and the show’s creators. “Whenever such crimes are committed by some citizens of the country, forces inimical to the interest of this country become active and they make it an issue and raise it before different national and international forums alleging that the Indian citizens have become intolerant and India has become an unsafe place to live,” the judge said in his order.
The state government argued in court the filing of 10 FIRs across the country showed that a number of persons felt that the web series was offensive. “It is not a stray case...” added the government’s counsel. Purohit’s lawyers said the series was a work of fiction and there was no intention to outrage religious feelings.