The managing editor of News 18 India and Journalist Amish Devgan has moved the Supreme Court seeking to quash all FIRs registered against him over his comments wherein he referred to the renowned Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer in derogatory terms.
The petition shall be heard on 26th June by a vacation bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari. The petitioner contended that he had ‘no intention’ to hurt any religious sentiment, and thus the FIR should be quashed.
While hosting a debate on the PIL’s regarding the Place of Worship Special Provision Act on his show ‘Aar Par’ telecasted on 15th June, Devgan had reportedly called Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, better known as Khwaja Gareeb Nawaz, an “attacker” and a “looter” by using the term ‘Lootera Chisti’ (‘Chisti the robber’), thus, inviting furious reactions from the Muslim community throughout the country.
Further, on 17th June, Devgan had tweeted and issued an apology stating that he had mistakenly referred to ‘Khilji’ as ‘Chishti’ while stating that he has full faith in Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. “I myself go to Ajmer Sharif for his ziyarat and if my statement has hurt anyone, then I regret it” he stated in his apology.
However, concerning his remarks, several police complaints and FIRs were registered against the anchor across the country. The Darul Uloom Deoband also issued a press statement condemning the anchor’s choice of words and demanded legal action against Devgan.
According to the Pydhonie (Mumbai) Police, in reaction to Devgan’s statements, a complaint was received from the Raza Academy. The police then recorded a statement from Raza Academy General Secretary Arif Razvi, and registered the FIR under sections 295A (Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), 153A (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc, and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), 505 (Statements conducing to public mischief) and 34 (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). In addition to police complaints and FIRs, several Muslim organizations have also condemned the anchor’s remarks.
Later, another FIR was registered against the journalist by the Nanded police under Section 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting religious beliefs) of the Indian Penal Code.
The present petition filed through Advocates Mrinal Bharti and Vivek Jain prays for an interim stay on the investigation against Devgan, and seeks quashing of FIRs filed against him, as it is a ‘small issue’. The petition states that the FIRs against Devgan would stifle freedom of speech and expression of journalists, as the reference to Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti as a “looter” was an “inadvertent error” committed during a heated debate segment. Devgan, further argued that there is no mens rea or intention made out in the case and sought to transfer the case to any court in the National Capital Region (NCR).