The Bombay High Court on Monday dismissed a plea filed by independent MP-MLA couple Navneet Rana and her husband Ravi Rana, respectively, seeking to quash the second of two FIRs registered against them for resisting arrest on Saturday after a huge row over their plans to recite Hanuman Chalisa outside the private home of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
A division bench of Justice P. B. Varale and Justice S. M. Modak also observed that there was considerable merit in the submissions made by Special Public Prosecutor Pradip Gharat.
The judges upheld his contention on the FIR pertaining to chant religious verses near the personal home of the CM since such an act at the residence of another person or at a public place is a breach of personal liberty of the other person, and the Maharashtra government was justified in its apprehensions that it could lead to a law and order situation in Mumbai.
“Persons in public life are expected to act responsibly. With great power comes great responsibility… that those who are active in public life are expected to act responsibly is not an extra but a basic expectation,” the court said in its strong observations while dismissing the Rana couple’s plea.
The judges said that in case the state government wanted to initiate action against the Ranas under the second FIR, then they would give 72 hours notice to the petitioners (Ranas) before initiating any such measures.
The Ranas’ lawyer Rizwan Merchant said that after they receive the 72-hour notice from the police, they would decide their further course of action, and moved sessions court for bail.
After two days of high political drama, police in suburban Mumbai’s Khar booked and arrested the Rana couple on Saturday under Indian Penal Code Section’s 153 (A) (promoting enmity between groups on grounds of religion race, etc), and the stringent IPC Section 124 (A), pertaining to sedition.
The Mumbai Police also filed a second FIR around 2 a.m. on Sunday, against the Ranas invoking IPC’s Section 353 for alleged assault of a public servant and obstructing public servant from discharging their official duties.
Merchant argued that the second FIR was “an abuse” of the legal process and the subsequent addition of the offence of sedition was unsustainable.
SPP Gharat countered this, saying that the second FIR was registered for a separate offence relating to obstructing police from discharging their duties, for which the court has granted relief to the extent of serving the Ranas a 72-hour notice for any action.
On Saturday, the Ranas were served with a notice under Bombay Police Act’s Section 149, requesting them to refrain from carrying out their plans, but they did not heed, after which they were detained and arrested that evening.
SPP Gharat said that despite the notice, the Ranas continued to give media and online interviews, creating apprehensions in society, and their statements posing a serious threat to the law and order situation after which the action was taken against them.
Later, amid high drama at their Khar home, the Rana couple was arrested on Saturday evening and produced before a Bandra holiday Magistrate Court which remanded them to 14 days’ judicial custody while posting their bail plea for hearing on April 29.
Through her lawyer, Navneet Rana has written to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla about alleged harassment by the police, even as the couple moved a bail plea before the Sessions Court which is likely to be heard on Tuesday.
Later, Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis alleged that in police custody, she was mistreated, abused, subjected to casteist slurs, and even denied water or permission to go to the washroom.
However, Home Minister Dilip Walse-Patil denied the allegations as totally “baseless”.