In a detailed order granting bail to MP Navneet Rana and her husband MLA Ravi Rana, in the Matoshree-Hanuman Chalisa sedition case, a special court stated that while the accused "had crossed the line of freedom of speech and expression," there was not sufficient ground for invoking sedition.
The Ranas were granted bail on Wednesday, 4 May, in connection with a case for threatening to recite Hanuman Chalisa with their supporters outside 'Matoshree', the private residence of Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray. In a detailed order made available on Friday, the court stated:
"Undoubtedly, the applicants have crossed the lines of freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under the Constitution of India. However, mere expression of derogatory or objectionable words, may not be a sufficient ground for invoking the provisions contained in Section 124A of IPC. The said provisions would apply only when the written and spoken words have the tendency or intention of creating disorder or disturbance of public peace by resort to violence."
The court, noting that the politicians and figures of public authority carry a greater responsibility while making speeches, said that some of the expressions used by the accused against the chief minister was "extremely objectionable."
"[T]hough the statements and acts of applicants are blameworthy, the same cannot be stretched too far to bring within the ambit of Section 124A of IPC," the court observed.
Ranas' Announcement Did Not Create Hatred, Contempt for Govt: Court
The court order released on Friday said that the Ranas' announcement on chanting the Hanuman Chalisa did not create hatred or contempt for the government.
"It is pertinent to note that on perusal of the FIR, it is not the case of the prosecution that the said announcement was made with an intention to incite people to create disorder by acts of violence. The said announcement do not in any manner have the tendency of subverting the Government by violent means, nor do the same have the effect of creating hatred, disaffection or contempt for the Government."
After the two had been granted bail upon furnishing a bond of Rs 50,000 each, the couple was ordered not to engage with the media over the matter or commit "similar offences" in the future.
The Ranas were arrested on 23 April, and 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 Matoshree.
However, the Ranas had later claimed that they had called off their plans to protest.
This comes amid a row in the state over the broadcast of religious messages and prayers through loudspeakers.