The Supreme Court on Friday granted interim bail to comedian Munawar Faruqui, Bar and Bench reported.

The comedian is accused of insulting Hindu deities during a show. He has been in jail since January 1 for his alleged comments, even though the police have said there was no electronic evidence and that the filing of the complaint was based on hearsay.

A bench of Justices RF Nariman and BR Gavai also issued notices on the petitions filed by the comedian for bail, and quashing of the first information report against him by the Madhya Pradesh Police for allegedly hurting religious sentiments, Live Law reported.

“We issue notice in both the petitions, and stay the judgement of the High Court,” the Supreme Court said, according to The Indian Express. “The petitioner is released on ad-interim bail on conditions to the satisfaction of the trial court. In the meantime, there shall be stay of the production warrants as well.”

The court said that the allegations mentioned against him in the FIR were vague, The Hindu reported. The bench noted that the procedure set down by the court in a previous judgment had not been followed in Faruqui’s case.

“Is it correct that the Arnesh Kumar judgement is not followed in the case?” Justice Nariman asked, according to Live Law. “If that is not followed, then it is good enough.”

In his petition, Faruqui had alleged that the police did not follow the procedure for arrest laid down by the court in its Arnesh Kumar vs the State of Bihar judgement of 2014. The order states that before arresting a person, a police officer should carry out a preliminary investigation to assess the genuineness of the complaint, according to the Hindustan Times.

The 2014 ruling also said that proper facts and reasons should be presented before a magistrate by the police officer within 24 hours of the arrest. The magistrate is then to be satisfied that the condition precedent for arrest under Section 41 Code of Criminal Procedure had been fulfilled, and it is only then that he will authorise the detention of an accused, the newspaper reported.

“The judgment of 2014 not followed in this case and that has been pointed out to us...We issue notice on the interim bail plea,” the Supreme Court observed.

Additionally, the court stayed the production warrant issued by the Uttar Pradesh Police against Faruqui. The Uttar Pradesh Police had sought the comedian’s custody in connection with a case from April. The complainant had accused him of making derogatory comments about Union Home Minister Amit Shah, and of hurting religious sentiments.

The Supreme Court was hearing two pleas by Faruqui – one challenging the Madhya Pradesh High Court’s January 28 order denying him bail, and a writ petition against the state police’s first information report against him.

The Madhya Pradesh High Court has repeatedly denied bail to Faruqui despite the lack of evidence against him.

On January 28, the High Court had rejected his bail plea, concluding that there was prima facie evidence to suggest that Faruqui had intended to outrage religious feelings. The court added that there was a Constitutional duty on every citizen to “promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood” irrespective of their religious, linguistic, sectional and regional diversities.

Earlier, his bail plea was rejected on January 5 and January 2 as well.

Also read:

  1. South Asian American stand-up comedians to perform in support of Munawar Faruqui
  2. The mass radicalisation that India does not acknowledge

The case

Faruqui was arrested from a cafe in Madhya Pradesh’s Indore city on January 1 for allegedly hurting religious sentiments during a programme. He was arrested on the basis of a complaint by Eklavya Singh Gaur, chief of Hindutva group Hind Rakshak Sangathan. Gaur is the son of Bharatiya Janata Party legislator Malini Gaur.

On January 4, the Indore Police had said that there was no visual evidence to show that Faruqui had insulted Hindu deities. Along with Faruqui, four others – Nalin Yadav, Prakhar Vyas, Edwin Anthony and Priyam Vyas – were also arrested on similar charges. A day later, Faruqui’s friend Sadaqat Khan was arrested for allegedly making abusive remarks about Gaur.

Indore Superintendent of Police Vijay Khatri had said that Faruqui had not made any jokes about Hindu deities, or even begun his performance and he was arrested on the basis of Gaur’s claims that he had overheard jokes during rehearsal.