Punjab & Haryana High Court stays FIR against Raveena Tandon, Farah Khan, Bharti Singh

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The Punjab & Haryana High Court on Wednesday ordered that no coercive steps be taken against Bollywood actress Raveena Tandon, filmmaker Farah Khan and comedian Bharti Singh in relation to a First Information Report (FIR) lodged against them for the offence of hurting religious sentiments [Raveena Tandon v. State of Punjab].

Justice Karamjit Singh issued notice to the State of Punjab in the plea seeking quashing of the FIR registered against the trio for their comments made during a web show in 2019.

“Learned counsel for the petitioners is directed to supply a complete set of paper book to the learned State counsel during the course of the day. Till then, no coercive steps shall be taken against the petitioners,” the order recorded.

Khan had hosted a show called Backbenchers, released by Flipkart, where she invited celebrities and tested their general knowledge. The complainants had taken issued with comments made during an episode telecast on November 30, 2019.

Essentially, the allegations against the petitioners were that they hurt the religious sentiments of the Christian community by comparing the word “Hallelujah” with a vulgar word, and disrespected it.

The petitioners argued that there was nothing in the show to perceive that it was intended to hurt the religious sentiments of the Christian community. They stated that the hurt must be “deliberate and malicious”. Therefore, the contents of the FIR did not constitute an offence under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code.

“The so-called incident arises from an unintentional conversation during the quizzing of the two participants by the host,” the petition stated.

Further, it was their stand that the allegations were vague and general, with an ulterior motive to fasten criminal liability on them.

After hearing these submissions, the Court listed the case for further hearing on December 5, while granting interim relief to the petitioners.

Advocates Abhinav Sood, Gaurav Shukla, Anmol Gupta, Dhruv Chowfla, Jashan Mehta and Shivjot Arya appeared for the petitioners.

In March 2020, Justice Sudip Ahluwalia of the High Court had stayed an FIR against the petitioners in a similar case arising out of the same incident.

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