A scene from web series Tandav
A scene from web series Tandav

New Delhi: Underscoring that freedom of speech is not absolute but subject to restrictions, the Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to stay the FIRs against actors and producers of 'Tandav' web series, asking the complainants to approach the High Courts for relief.

At least three cases have been registered in Uttar Pradesh against the makers of the series, alleging inappropriate depiction of UP Police personnel and deities, and adverse portrayal of a character playing the role of prime minister. Similar cases have been lodged in other states, including Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Bihar, Delhi and Chandigarh. The makers have been accused of "hurting religious sentiments", "promoting religious enmity" and "defiling a place of worship".

Senior advocates Fali S. Nariman, Mukul Rohatgi and Siddharth Luthra cited the top court’s judgment in Arnab Goswami case to seek relief in the matter.

Luthra argued that the director of the web series is being harassed. “Is this the way liberty should be protected – by filing of FIRs across the country,” he asked.

Justice AShok Bhushan, heading the Bench, said the director better approach the concerned High Courts if he wants the FIRs quashed.

Nariman submitted that apologies have been tendered, and despite that several FIRs have been filed in six states.

The Bench said it need not intervene, as even the police can file closure reports if apologies have been tendered.

Rohatgi cited the Arnab Goswami case to move the top court over what he perceives is a violation of Article 19(1)(a). He pleaded that people get offended with anything and everything these days. “Please protect us with no coercive steps. We deleted the content without any protest. Scenes have been deleted. It is a political satire,” argued Rohatgi.

Even while declining to quash the FIRs, the Bench, also comprising Justices R Subhash Reddy and M R Shah, issued a notice "limited to transfer and clubbing of the FIRs into one." It said it won't come in the way of the actors and makers of the web series from approaching the concerned court for anticipatory bail.

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