The Mumbai Sessions Court on Saturday, 30 April, reserved the order on bail pleas of Independent MP-MLA couple Navneet and Ravi Rana for 2 May.
The Ranas were booked under Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups) and 34 (criminal act done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code, after they had announced their plan to chant Hanuman Chalisa outside Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray's residence 'Matoshree'. However, the Ranas claimed that they had called off their plans to protest.
The couple was arrested by the police on 23 April. The Bombay High Court on 25 April dismissed the couple's petition for quashing the FIR registered against them for allegedly resisting arrest over the row.
Rana Couple’s Act Was ‘an Act of Dissent, Not Sedition’: Counsel
Senior advocate Abad Ponda argued on behalf of the Ranas saying the case was “neither criminal nor a money laundering case” and questioned how going to Matoshree was a 'seditious act'.
"All they wanted to do was recite Hanuman Chalisa outside Matoshree without disturbing the law and order of the place. That too, both are Hindu leaders, so what is wrong with reciting Hanuman Chalisa? Police did not even get their custody and still they are in jail," he said.
The advocate further added that the Rana couple's act was "an act of dissent, not sedition".
While opposing the bail, Public Prosecutor Pradeep Gharat said that while Sections used are in an exceptional case, the limit should not be crossed.
"Everyone has the right to have fair criticism but should exercise restraint. There should be a limit," he argued. He also questioned whether it was a legal act with consent. "What if Abad Ponda says he wants to read Hanuman Chalisa at my house and what if I deny it? If I say no – can he still read it?" he asked.
He also alleged that this was “an attempt to challenge the governmentt so that it collapses”.
Mumbai Police Oppses Bail
The Mumbai Police on Friday, 29 April, opposed the bail pleas of MP Navneet Rana and her husband stating, “However innocent these pleadings may look like, the respondent says that these submissions are most hypocritical since the plan to read Hanuman Chalisa at the private residence of the chief minister at Matoshree bungalow is a big plot to create a challenge to the law and order situation.”
The police also said that reading a holy text at someone's private residence without prior permission from the homeowner was a case of trespassing.
They alleged the couple were "clearly with an intention to bring hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the government".