Freedom of expression

India cutting a sorry figure with threats issued to artists, says Bombay High Court

The bench asked why the investigation agencies were not able to arrest the main accused in the murder cases of Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare.

The Bombay High Court on Thursday said India was cutting a “sorry figure” after open threats were being issued to artists and others who voice their opinions, PTI reported. The bench was hearing petitions filed by family members of deceased rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare, seeking court supervision on their murder probe.

The High Court made a reference to Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film Padmavati, which has been at the centre of controversy after Rajput groups and others accused the director of straying from facts in the movie. The bench observed that while Bhansali has not been able to release his film, while actress Deepika Padukone is facing death threats.

“In this country, we have come to a situation where people cannot voice their opinions,” Justice Dharmadhikari said, according to PTI. “Every time a person says he or she wants to voice their opinion, somebody or a fringe group says they would not allow it. This does not augur well for the state.”

The judge said Dabholkar was killed in 2013 and Pansare was killed in 2015, however, the investigating agencies have not been able to arrest the main suspects.

“We cannot allow such serious matters to linger for years,” the bench said. “We cannot allow constitutional rights to be taken away. Enough damage has been caused already. Has any senior official from the two agencies bothered to find out why the probe is not getting any headway?”

The court ordered that a meeting be convened with the secretary of the state’s home department, director general of police, joint director of CBI with additional solicitor general Anil Singh and Ashok Mundargi.

The bench has now posted the matter for further hearing on December 21.

Dharmadhikari said states like Maharashtra and Karnataka were known for their “progressive and modern thinking”, PTI reported. “Maharashtra and Karnataka are known for social reformers and thinkers and with such incidents these states are cutting a sorry figure politically too,” he added.

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