The Supreme Court will consider clubbing the FIRs as multiple FIRs were filed but it has rejected the plea for relief from arrest against Tandav makers. Tandav is a political thriller series of 9 episodes streaming on Amazon Prime.
By: Pragnya Prachurya Acharya, Madhusudan Law University, Cuttack, Odisha.
The Supreme Court, on Wednesday (27 January 2021), issued a notice on the case seeking clubbing of FIRs against the makers of Tandav web series (of Amazon Prime) filed by various states of India for Hindu religious sentiments.
The clubbing FIRs case has three separate petitions against the registration of FIRs in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra. The FIRs are registered against Ali Abbas Zafar, the director of the series, Amazon Prime India head Aparna Purohit, producer Himanshu Mehra, writer Gaurav Solanki, and actor Muhammad Zeeshan Ayyub.
The bench hearing this matter consisted of Justice Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy, and M. R. Shah. The bench refused the plea of the petitioner to quash the FIR and to provide interim protection from arrest stating, “We cannot use the power under Section 482 CrPC. We are not inclined to grant interim protection.”
It was also said that it will consider the plea for clubbing of all FIRs against the maker of the web series filed in different states and that the petitioner can approach the appropriate court for an appropriate remedy under the law for anticipatory bail or quashing of FIR.
A notice was also issued to the state governments of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Karnataka to know their responses on the plea for quashing FIRs against the makers.
The bench recommended the Petitioners to approach the High Court for quashing the FIRs, but to this, senior advocate Fali Nariman argued that it would be very difficult for the makers to approach the different high courts of different states as the FIRs were filed in six states and its increasing every day.
Adding to his argument, the advocate said that it was a case of free speech under Article 19(1) (a) of the constitution and referred to Arnab Goswami’s case where SC has clubbed the FIRs filed in different states.
He also added that “Their ego has been hurt … we have already deleted one or two scenes”. To this, the SC agreed that it will consider the request to club the FIRs, and Justice Shah remarked that the police can file a closure report if the content has been removed and the apology tendered.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi appearing for Amazon India said, “The show is a political satire. If people are so sensitive … then art, cinema, TV all will be destroyed”. So he urged to protect this under the right of free speech. He also added, “How can we go to every state and every court … free speech under article 19(1) (a) is most jealously guarded right.”
Siddharth Luthra, the advocate for director, producer, and script-writer, also sought relief under Article 19(1) (a). The bench replied to this, “Your right of freedom of speech is not absolute and is subject to reasonable restrictions.” The advocate also argued that the series on Amazon Prime was an OTT Platform. So when a person sees something on OTT, he or she has to agree to watch it because the viewer will have to pay and view it.
The advocate for actor Mohammed Zeeshan argued in the court that the actor played a role whose dialogues in the series have no connection with his personal beliefs.
Justice Shah responded, “You cannot play the role of a character which hurts the religious sentiments of others”. He said, as an actor, you must have read the script before accepting the role.
Currently, the series is streaming on Amazon Prime with a few scenes deleted from the series.