Mumbai: Observing that the state government was “not unjustified in apprehending a law and order situation” while arresting MP Navneet Rana and her MLA husband Ravi Rana for assault on public servant in relation to the controversy arising out of the Hanuman Chalisa recital episode, the Bombay High court on Monday rejected their petition seeking quashing of the FIR. A division bench of Justices PB Varale and SM Modak observed that the couple's declaration of reciting Hanuman Chalisa outside the personal residence of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray was “breach of personal liberty” and that the public figures were “expected to behave responsibly”.
The court said, “Such a declaration – that the petitioner will recite religious verses, either at the personal residence of another person or even at a public place – is certainly a breach of personal liberty of another person. Secondly, when the declaration is made that a particular religious verse will be read out in a public place, the state government is not unjustified in apprehending that it would disturb law and order.”
The HC was hearing a petition filed by the Ranas seeking that the second FIR registered against them by the Khar police on charges of deterring the a police officer from discharging her duties be quashed. They contended that the case of assault on a public servant was registered as a second FIR in connection with the incident and was meant to harass and deny them bail.
On April 23, around 5.30 pm, the police registered the first FIR against the Ranas on the charge of promoting enmity. It subsequently added the charge of sedition to this FIR. On April 24, the Khar police registered a second FIR against the Ranas under Section 353 of the IPC for obstructing a public servant. Their counsel Rizwan Merchant argued that all the offences were part of the same event. Alleging that two separate FIRs had been registered by the police “out of vendetta”, Merchant said that if the Ranas were granted bail in the first FIR, they would be arrested in the second FIR.
Special public prosecutor Pradip Gharat opposed the plea stating that the two FIRs were the result of two separate incidents – first was based on the declaration of the recitation – and the second was registered when the couple resisted arrest. Agreeing with the prosecution, the court noted: “These are two independent, different events, and not part of the same series of events. We find no reason to grant relief.”
The court further observed that the Ranas, being active in public and political lives, should have acted more responsibly. “Petitioners who claim to be active in their public and political life are expected to act more responsibly. As is often said – with great power comes great responsibility. A responsible conduct is expected from those in public life, and is basic expectation,” the HC said. The court however said that in case the police decide to take any coercive action against the Ranas in the second FIR, then it must give them a notice of 72 hours.