On Friday, comic Munawar Faruqui received interim bail from the Supreme Court, after spending more than a month in jail for allegedly insulting Hindu deities. His earlier requests for bail had been rejected by both the sessions court and the Madhya Pradesh High Court. The case attracted controversy because of the arbitrary nature of the charges: the police itself admitted that it had no evidence to show that the comedian had actually hurt religious sentiments.

People present at the club say that the police detained him before he had actually started performing.

However, even though Faruqui has got bail, four of the five other people who were arrested along with him in Madhya Pradesh on January 1 are still in jail. If Faruqui’s arrest was seen as arbitrary, theirs is even more so. The police seemined to pick up people at random in the club in Indore in which the comic was due to perform.

One of them was a juvenile and got bail earlier.

Arbitrary action

The people still in jail are Sadakat Khan, Edwin Anthony, Prakhar Vyas and Nalin Yadav. While Faruqui has been charged with hurting religious sentiments– an offence under India’s laws – it is unclear how the others are connected to the alleged crime.

Khan is a Faruqui’s friend who works in the construction industry. A video of him being assaulted by a bystander while in police custody was released on social media. Prakhar Vyas is a stand-up comedian who was arrested along with his younger brother, a juvenile. Nalin is also a stand-up comedian while Edwin Anthony’s father claims that he was a member of the audience.

“He had no role to play in this at all. He went to simply watch the show,” said MV Anthony, Edwin Anthony’s father in a state of bewilderment. “We are so tense here at home.”

Jitendra Bajpai, Anthony’s lawyer explained that the police have accused him of selling tickets. However, after Faruqui’s bail, he expects bail for his client. “His bail is pending in the High Court,” Bajpai said. “Whenever it is heard, we think he will get bail.”

Positive precedent

Prakhar Vyas’ lawyer Ajay Bagadia accused the police of behaving arbitrarily in arresting not only Prakhar but also his younger brother, who is a juvenile. “His younger brother was not a performer but tried to intervene when Prakhar was attacked,” Bagadia explained. “So then he was also made an accused.”

Faruqi’s bail petition moved its way through the legal system to eventually reach the Supreme Court but this did not happen for the others. While Nalin Yadav’s was heard by the Madhya Pradesh High Court on January 27 – and rejected – the others have only been heard by the sessions court till now. Prakhar’s younger brother has also received bail from a juvenile court.

Like Anthony, Nalin Yadav’s lawyer, Anshuman Srivastav also feels that the Faruqi case sets a positive precedent. “For Nalin, we are moving an application in the Supreme Court this week, Srivastav explained, going on to point out just how absurd the case against his client was. “Nalin was a performer at the show – but he did not even perform. He was going to perform.”

Prakhar Vyas’s lawyer, Ajay Bagadia also expressed hope that his client would soon get bail: “There is no distinguishing factor between the two cases. If anything, Faruqui’s case is worse. So we are a 100% sure of getting bail.”