Reassign Faruqui bail case to another bench: Petition in Madhya Pradesh High Court

Regarding arrested comedian Munnawar Faruqui’s bail application, activist Saket Gokhale has filed a letter petition with Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court praying that the bench of Justice Rohit Arya hearing the matter be re-assigned in public interest in light of Justice Arya’s observations and proceedings on Monday.

The letter raises concern over certain oral remarks reportedly made by Justice Arya during Monday’s hearing in the matter, which is stated to carry a presumption of guilt on the part of the accused, even before a trial has begun in the matter.

“… it is shocking and unnerving that the Hon’ble Justice Rohit Arya, while hearing the bail application has not only presumed guilty on part of the accused through his observations but has also said ‘such people must not be spared’ even when the accused are presumed innocent unless proven guilty. At the stage of a bail application hearing, whether the accused ‘must or must not be spared’ is not even a point of consideration as these are not trial proceedings. By referring to the accused as ‘such persons’ and by observing that ‘they must not be spared’, the Hon’ble Justice Rohit Arya has not given an impression of fairness or impartiality on the part of the Bench”, reads the letter petition by Gokhale.

While hearing Faruqui’s bail application on Monday, Justice Rohit Arya made the following oral remarks: “But why you take undue advantage of other’s religious sentiments and emotions. What is wrong with your mindset? How can you do this for the purpose of your business?”

“These observations combined with the Bench expressing its disinclination to entertain the bail applications does create a valid apprehension amongst the general public that the accused are not getting a fair non-prejudiced hearing in their bail applications,” he added.

The petition further pointed out that the Indore Police, which is investigating the case, has repeatedly spoken about lack of prima facie evidence supporting the charges against Faruqui.

The letter petition also referred to remarks made by the concerned SHO in the media that nothing has been found to be malicious in the video footage of the impugned show and that it can be safely said that nothing incriminating was found.

Referring to submission made by intervenors opposing the grant of bail to Faruqui, Gokhale noted their arguments related to comments allegedly made in May 2020 and not to the comedy event of January 1 in relation to which the accused was arrested.

Faruqui, performing artist Nalin Yadav and three others were arrested on the complaint of a Hindu fringe group leader and son of a BJP MLA that “indecent” remarks were made against Hindu deities and Home Minister Amit Shah during a show held in Indore in Madhya Pradesh.

The comedian has been a target of right-wing groups since last year when one of his show got viral for its sharp comments.

Faruqui had also been roughed up by the members of the fringe group Hind Rakshak Sangathan, who forcefully took him to the Tukoganj police station along with the organisers of the event.