MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Monday declined to cancel a second police case registered against the arrested Amravati lawmaker couple, Navneet Kaur Rana and Ravi Rana, but told the police to give them 72 hours notice before arresting them for allegedly threatening and resisting arrest by police officers on Saturday.
Khar police on Saturday registered the first case against the Rana couple for promoting enmity between two groups and added the charge of sedition against them after they declared their intention to chant the Hanuman Chalisa outside Matoshree, the private residence of chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, and came all the way to Mumbai for allegedly trying to create a law and order situation.
The couple, presently in judicial custody in connection with the first FIR, on Monday moved court, questioning the registration of the second FIR. Navneet Kaur Rana is detained at Byculla jail, while Ravi Rana is lodged at Taloja jail in Navi Mumbai.
During Monday’s proceedings, the bench, however, reprimanded the couple’s plans to chant the Hanuman Chalisa outside the chief minister’s residence.
“The petitioner has disclosed that they could recite religious verses outside the house of another person,” said the bench. “Such type of a declaration is certainly in breach of the personal liberty of the other person and therefore the state is justified in carrying apprehension that such act will lead to disturbance in law and order situation.”
Since the petitioners claim to be actively involved in public and political life, they are expected to act more responsibly, the court said. “With great power comes great responsibility,” said the bench.
“The two FIRs are registered for two different set of incidents and does not require indulgence of this court,” the bench of justices Prasanna Varale and SM Modak said, rejecting the contention that the two police cases related to the same incident.
“However, if the state wants to make any arrest, they should give 72 hours notice to the petitioners.” The second FIR was filed under Section 353 (assault or use of criminal force to deter a public servant from performing his duty) of the Indian Penal Code.
Their counsel, advocate Rizwan Merchant, submitted that the second FIR related to the same series of events that had taken place on Friday and Saturday, and therefore no separate FIR was necessary.
“The same section could have easily been added in the first FIR for which the duo has already been arrested. They have already added section 124A of IPC (sedition) charge later in the FIR. They could have done it similarly,” the lawyer said.
He informed the court that cases are registered against the Ranas also in Amravati, Pune and Osmanabad. Once they get bail in the first Khar FIR, they will again be arrested on other FIRs, including the second one.
“The present case is a strategic and tactical FIR with the sole purpose of pressurizing the petitioners as a result of a vengeful political vendetta,” Merchant argued.
Special public prosecutor Pradeep Gharat opposed the petition, contending that the two FIRs cover two different incidents. The people’s representatives had refused to cooperate with police, and instead threatened them, Gharat pointed out.
Police added sedition charge in the first FIR as the motive was not simply to recite the Hanuman Chalisa, but to create a law and order situation, Gharat said. They wanted to challenge the state machinery, especially the chief minister.
The court found substance in the prosecutor’s argument and took serious note of the intentions expressed by the Ranas.