Reassign Faruqui bail case to another bench: Activist Saket Gokhale’s letter petition to MP HC Chief Justice

Gokhale’s letter said oral remarks reportedly made by Justice Rohit Arya during Monday’s hearing ‘carry a presumption of guilt on the part of the accused’, even before a trial has begun in the matter

Reassign Faruqui bail case to another bench: Activist Saket Gokhale’s letter petition to MP HC Chief Justice

NH Web Desk

Activist Saket Gokhale has addressed a letter petition to the Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court urging that the bail applications moved by comedian Munawar Faruqui and three others accused of insulting Hindu deities should be heard by a Bench other than Justice Rohit Arya in the ‘interest of justice and fairness’.

Gokhale's letter raises concern over certain oral remarks reportedly made by Justice Arya during yesterday's hearing in the matter, which is stated to ‘carry a presumption of guilt on the part of the accused’, even before a trial has begun in the matter.

As such, Gokhale says that there is a ‘valid impression’ created among the general public ‘that the accused are not getting a fair non-prejudiced hearing in their bail application’, as per a report by Bar & Bench.

"... it is shocking and unnerving that the Hon’ble Justice Rohit Arya, while hearing the bail application has not only presumed guilty on part of the accused through his observations but has also said 'such people must not be spared' even when the accused are presumed innocent unless proven guilty. At the stage of a bail application hearing, whether the accused 'must or must not be spared' is not even a point of consideration as these are not trial proceedings. By referring to the

accused as 'such persons' and by observing that 'they must not be spared', the Hon’ble Justice Rohit Arya has not given an impression of fairness or impartiality on the part of the Bench," reads the letter petition.

In particular, Gokhale has referred to reports that Justice Arya had expressed disinclination to entertain the bail application without citing any reasons and also commented, "But why do you take undue advantage of other’s religious sentiments and emotions. What is wrong with your mindset? How can you do this for the purpose of your business?"

Apart from these statements indicating a presumption already made against the accused, Gokhale submitted that Justice Arya ought to have recused from hearing the matter if he felt that he would not be able to adjudicate fairly in the matter ‘for whatever reasons’.

Referring to submission made by intervenors opposing the grant of bail to Munawar Faruqui and others, it noted that their arguments related to comments allegedly made in May 2020 and not to the comedy event of January 1 in relation to which the accused was arrested.

In the course of his letter, Gokhale also highlighted that a Station House Officer had earlier told a media outlet on January 4 that there was nothing incriminating found into the video footage submitted by the complainant against the accused.

Further, it pointed out that the police had failed to produce their case diary in an earlier bail hearing before the High Court and also submitted that they had no documentary evidence to back the alleged charges of huring religious sentiments.

The repeated submissions of the Police about the lack of prima facie evidence supporting the charges against the accused, coupled with

their rush to arrest them based on a complaint by a politically inclined complainant, ‘raises questions on whether the Indore Police is acting under political pressure’, the letter adds.

Faruqui was arrested on allegations that he made derogatory remarks against Hindu Gods during a recent stand-up show. A complaint to this effect was reportedly filed by Eklavya Singh Gaur, chief of Hindutva organisation Hind Rakshak Sangathan.

The Indore bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court on Monday reserved orders on the bail application moved by the accused.

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