The Supreme Court on Wednesday, 27 January, orally observed that freedom of speech is not absolute during its hearing on pleas seeking stay on FIRs against actors and producers of web series Tandav on Amazon Prime.
A bench headed by Ashok Bhushan expressed its disinclination to pass any direction to stay the FIRs. The top court said the petitioners should go to the high courts to seek quashing of these cases.
Senior advocates Fali S. Nariman, Mukul Rohatgi and Siddharth Luthra cited the top court judgment in Arnab Goswami case to seek relief in the matter.
Luthra argued that the director of the web series is being harassed. "Is this way liberty should be protected in the country and FIRs are being filed across the country," he added.
Right To Freedom of Speech Not Absolute: SC
The bench observed that the right to freedom of speech is not absolute and it is subjected to restrictions. "Your right to freedom of speech is not absolute. You cannot play the role of character that hurts the sentiments of a community," it said.
Nariman submitted that apologies have been made, and despite that several FIRs have been filed in six states.
Justice Bhushan replied: "You want the FIRs to be quashed, then why can't you approach the High Courts?"
Nariman said the web series makers have removed the objectionable content and still there are cases being filed against them.
The top court questioned why the petitioners have moved the court under Article 32.
The bench said the police can file closure reports too if apologies have been made.
No Interim Protection from Arrest, Rules SC
The Supreme Court also rejected the petitioners' request to grant interim protection to the makers of Tandav and its actors who have been named in the FIRs from arrest by police departments of six states, including Uttar Pradesh. "We cannot use the power under Section 482 CrPC. We are not inclined to grant interim protection," Live Law quoted the bench as saying.
Multiple FIRs and criminal complaints have been filed against Tandav director Ali Abbas Zafar, the show's writer Gaurav Solanki and actors Saif Ali Khan and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra alleging that the web series has hurt religious sentiments.