New Delhi [India], January 27 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to grant interim protection from arrest to actor Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub and makers of web series 'Tandav' and allowed them to approach High Courts for relief from arrest or quashing of FIRs.
A Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah agreed to hear the issue of transferring and clubbing several FIRs registered against them across the country and issued notice to complainants on the prayer.
Ayyub, head of Amazon Prime Video (India), and the makers have approached the top court seeking protection from arrest on the FIRs registered against them for allegedly hurting religious sentiments and telecasting objectionable content.
During the hearing, senior advocate Fali Nariman appearing for web series makers told the Apex Court that some objectionable contents were removed and apologies were made.
"The so-called religious sentiments that hurt the people were removed," Nariman said adding that nothing survives in the case now.
Nariman said the FIRs are lodged in different states and are being filed every day. "Ego has been hurt and we have removed the content," he added.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi appearing for Amazon India Creative Head Aparna Purohit said how petitioners can go to every High Court as there are many FIRs in different states and urged the top court to club all the FIRs and transfer them to Mumbai.
Rohatgi added, "People get offended with anything and everything these days. The content has been deleted without any protest, scenes have been deleted. It's a political satire. People are so sensitive in this country then 19 (1) (a) (freedoms of speech and expression) would be destroyed."
To this, Justice MR Shah observed that the right to freedom of speech is not absolute, it's subjected to restrictions.
Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, also appearing for makers said 'Tandav' is an analytical serial about political and social issues and "even when there was no objectionable content, we deleted the scenes after complaints".
"Amazon Prime and other OTT platforms are not like Doordarshan etc, it's based on choice. When people see the series on the OTT platform, they consent to see it," Luthra argued.
Advocate Siddharth Agarwal appearing for Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub contended that statements of the character cannot be attributed to the actor.
Justice MR Shah told Ayub's lawyers that "When you accepted the contract you must have read the script, you can't play the role which hurts the sentiments of others."
Three petitions were filed separately by actor Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Amazon Prime creative head Aparna Purohit and another one moved jointly by the producer and director of the Over The Top (OTT) series.
'Tandav', a nine-episode political thriller that started streaming earlier this month on Amazon Prime OTT platform, featuring Saif Ali Khan, Dimple Kapadia and Ayyub, has created an uproar for allegedly hurting religious sentiments.
The petitions requested the top court that criminal proceedings initiated against them for offences including hurting religious sentiments be quashed or alternatively club all the seven FIRs registered in different states and transfer them to a court in Mumbai.
The pleas sought protection from arrest till all the FIRs are clubbed and sent to one court. It also asked that the top court should stay all the coercive action against them for the time being.
It would cause severe harassment to those associated with 'Tandav' to face prosecution in various states and that it would be just and fair to club all the cases at one place, preferably in Mumbai, which is the ordinary place of residence for the petitioners, the plea stated.
Three FIRs were registered in Uttar Pradesh's Lucknow, Greater Noida and Shahjahanpur. Two FIRs were lodged in Madhya Pradesh while one FIR each was lodged in Karnataka and Bihar. Apart from the FIRs, at least three other criminal complaints are pending in Maharashtra, Delhi and Chandigarh respectively.
FIRs were registered for the alleged inappropriate depiction of Uttar Pradesh Police personnel, deities and adverse portrayal of a character playing the role of prime minister in the show. FIRs mention that the show portrayed Hindu deity Shiva in "a poor light" as the actor playing him on-screen was shown using foul language.
Earlier, the Bombay High Court had granted a transit pre-arrest bail to director Ali Abbas Zafar, producer Himanshu Mehra, writer Gaurav Solanki, and Purohit against whom a case was registered in Lucknow. (ANI)