Bihar govt has nothing to do with case against 49 celebrities: DGP

MANIRATNA-696x314PATNA: The Bihar government has nothing to do with the case against the 49 celebrities who wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in July, the state police said today. State police chief Guptesvar Pandey told NDTV that it was done after an order from a court and there was no reason to panic.
According to a News agency police as saying that they had booked the 49 public figures under IPC sections relating to sedition, public nuisance, hurting religious feelings and insulting with intent to provoke breach of peace.
The sedition case against the celebrities – including actor and film-maker Aparna Sen, author Ramachandra Guha and film-maker Shyam Benegal ,Tamil film maker Maniratnam and Tamil actress Revathi are among the celebrities named in the FIR.– was filed last week, leading to a huge controversy.
“We have taken cognizance of this matter and whatever FIR was filed, it was on the local CJM (chief Judicial Magistrate) court’s order. I can assure you that an investigation will be done as per the order, and there’s no cause of worry or panic,” he added. “In view of the sensitivity of the matter, we would like to finish the investigation sooner rather than later,” the police chief added.
The celebrities, in their letter, had stated that the lynching of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities must immediately be put an end to. It also said, there was no democracy without dissent. The letter alleged that “Jai Shri Ram” had been reduced to a provocative war cry.
In August, a court in Muzaffarpur had ordered an inquiry into the matter following a petition by a local activist and asked the police to submit a report by November 11. But last week’s police move to file of the case triggered huge criticism against the state authorities from the opposition and the civil society.
“Anybody who says anything against the prime minister, anybody who raises anything against the government is put in jail and is attacked. Media is crushed. Everybody knows what’s going on. This is not a secret,” Congress’s Rahul Gandhi – who quit the party chief’s post after the Lok Sabha elections – told reporters.
Veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal, one of the celebrities who wrote to the Prime Minister, said the filing of the sedition case makes no sense since their open letter was over growing incidents of mob violence and carried an appeal, not a threat.
“I heard about this in total disbelief because I cannot imagine any court admitting a case of sedition against that letter,” eminent film-make Adoor Gopalakrishnan told NDTV. “When someone criticises the government it is not sedition. We are living in a democracy,” he added.
Historian Ramachandra Guha, actor Konkona Sen Sharma, and directors Aparna Sen and Shyam Benegal were among 49 celebrities booked last month for writing an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to flag rising intolerance in India.

Behind this FIR against the celebrities is a Muzaffarpur-based lawyer and serial litigant who has attempted to drag multiple celebrities to court over issues as diverse as Bollywood smooching scenes and ads for “hazardous” junk food.
Sudhir Kumar Ojha, 50, claims to have filed 745 PILs since he started practising law in 1996. Of these, by his own account, 130 cases have been dismissed by courts. “I do not have any objections to them writing a letter to the PM. But by getting it published in the media, they deliberately tried to tarnish the image of the PM and the country,” said Ojha. “The proof is that 62 other artistes wrote a letter, accusing them of trying to tarnish the image of the country,” he added.
The 49 celebrities were booked Wednesday. Ojha had moved a local court against them on 27 July, with the court ordering a case against the defendants on 18 September.  Ojha’s litany of PILs have targeted public figures of varying fame and kinds. From Hrithik Roshan and Abhishek Bachchan to Amitabh Bachchan, RJD chief Lalu Prasad, and even former prime minister Manmohan Singh.
In 2007, he filed a PIL against the makers and actors of Dhoom 2, accusing them of promoting obscenity by filming a kissing scene. According to Ojha, the case was dropped after the lawyers of the film-makers and actors declared they would not keep kissing scenes in future films.
The same year, he filed a case against Lalu Prasad for allegedly getting his helicopter to land on NH-28 “to attend the call of nature”. The case was dismissed and Ojha is currently pursuing it in the Patna High Court. The impact, however, is already there for all to see, he added. “Since then, no politician has dared to get his chopper on the NH again,” he claimed.
In 2006, Ojha sought action against Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray for describing the Chhath festival as “drama”, claiming that he had hurt the religious sentiments of Biharis. According to Ojha, a warrant was issued against Thackeray and the MNS chief had to get a bail from the Supreme Court. The case is still on in the Delhi High Court, he said.
Another case was filed when former PM Manmohan Singh and former West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee allegedly said the Ram setu between Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka was a natural structure and not man-made.
The case against them was dismissed because, Ojha said, he hadn’t sought permission from the president and the governor, as is required for cases against leaders serving as the prime minister and chief ministers, respectively.
In 2013, Ojha’s PIL against Amitabh Bachchan for promoting the consumption of instant noodles Maggi, which he described as “hazardous to health”, was dismissed by the court.
There are many who question how Ojha’s petitions are admitted in court and dub him a publicity seeker, but the lawyer is quite sure of himself. “I use the judiciary as a tool to bring relief to people,” he said.
Meanwhile, DMK president M.K. Stalin on Saturday demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi take steps to withdraw the FIR filed in Bihar against the celebrities who protested mob lynching. The party said the withdrawal of the charges will “protect democracy and basic features of the Constitution”.
Condemning the sedition charge against the celebrities, the leader of the opposition in Tamil Nadu said “labelling them as anti-nationals” for writing an open letter to Modi, voicing concern over growing incidents of mob lynching, was “unacceptable.”“How can seeking to uphold the basic tenets of the Constitution like tolerance and communal harmony be construed as anti-nationalism?” he asked in a statement.
Targeting the Prime Minister over the issue, Stalin alleged that the government led by him at the Centre got involved in acts against freedom of expression, which was “unacceptable.” The BJP government should realise that those who had taken up autocracy and clamped down on freedom of expression only faced defeat and it was evidenced by history, he said.(Inputs from Prerna Pratap in Patna with Agencies).




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