When Farha Khan hosted the web show called Backbenchers, released by Flipkart, in 2019, little did she know she along with her celebrity guests – Raveena Tandon and Bharti Singh will land in hot waters.
The format of the show was to test the general knowledge of invited celebrities. The complainants had taken issued with comments made during an episode telecast on December 24, 2019. It was claimed that Raveena Tandon and others used the Biblical expression “Hallelujah” in an offensive way.
Within days several FIRs were registered against the trio in different parts of India.
On December 26, the Punjab Police booked the three under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code 1860, for allegedly hurting the religious sentiments of Christian community in the show.
Sonu Jafar, president of the Christian Front of Ajnala Block alleged that “the religious sentiments of Christians have been hurt” and submitted a video footage of the show. All three celebrities made fun of word “Hallelujah” in the show, Jafar alleged.
“We have registered a case against the three and further investigations are being held,” said Amritsar Senior Superintendent of Police (Rural) Vikram Jeet Duggal.
On December 27, Farha Khan apologized after Amritsar police registered a similar case against her and others.
“I respect all religions, and it would never be my intention to disrespect any. On behalf of the entire team, Raveena Tandon, Bharti Singh and Myself…we do sincerely apologize,” the filmmaker had tweeted.
Raveena Tandon also tweeted saying, “I haven’t said a word that can be interpreted as an insult to any religion. The three of us (Farah Khan, Bharti Singh and I) never intended to offend anyone, but in case we did, my most sincere apologies to those who were hurt.”
Please do watch this link. I haven't said a word that can be interpreted as an insult to any religion. The three of us (Farah Khan, Bharti Singh and I) never intended to offend anyone, but in case we did, my most sincere apologies to those who were hurt. https://t.co/tT2IONqdKI
— Raveena Tandon (@TandonRaveena) December 26, 2019
Essentially, the allegations against the trio – Raveena Tandon, Farha Khan and Bharti Singh – are that they hurt the religious sentiments of the Christian community by comparing the word “Hallelujah” with a vulgar word, and disrespected it.
Hence section 295A.
Section 295A provides punishment under the Indian Criminal law for deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.
What is the Law – Section 295A:
Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India, by words, either spoken or written, or or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
To Err is human.. to Forgive Divine.. Thank you YOUR EMINENCE CARDINAL OSWALD GRACIOUS for meeting us n accepting our heartfelt apologies and putting this unfortunate matter to rest. Frm all of us thank you also @allwynsaldanha for making this happen. 🙏🏻 pic.twitter.com/bkC8AIDZ2V
— TheFarahKhan (@TheFarahKhan) December 30, 2019
A team of lawyers led by Abhinav Sood represented the three celebrities. Speaking on behalf of the trio, he submitted to the court that
“from the contents of FIR, none of the ingredients pertaining to offence under Section 295-A IPC are made out;
“the allegations made by respondent No.2 are vague and general in nature with the ulterior motive to fasten the criminal liability on the petitioners.
“The petitioners’ statements cannot be perceived to be disrespectful or hurtful to the sentiments of the Christian brothers or do not remotely qualify to constitute the offence under Section 295-A IPC. He further contends that the FIR has been concocted on non-existent facts.”
Justice Karamjit Singh directed the petitioners’ lawyer to “supply a complete set of paper book to the learned State counsel during the course of the day.
A notice for the matter to be listed for 5-12-2022 was accepted by the state government by Ms. Jaspreet Kaur, AAG Punjab.
“Till then, no coercive steps shall be taken against the petitioners,” Justice Karamjit Singh ordered. Read order here.
Justice Sudip Ahluwalia of the High Court had stayed an FIR against the petitioners in a similar case arising out of the same incident in March 2020.
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