The End Blasphemy Laws Coalition welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision to grant interim bail to comedian, Munawar Faruqui, on 5 February 2021. Faruqui remains under investigation following allegations that he had hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus during a performance cut-short on 1 January 2021. His earlier requests for bail had been rejected by both the sessions court and the Madhya Pradesh High Court.
In addition to granting him bail, Court also stayed a production warrant issued against him in connection with a separate case filed at George Town police station, according to The Wire.
Stand-up comedian, Munawar Faruqui, is known for his observational style that is typically topical and/or political.
On 1 January 2021, Faruqui had barely begun his set, when members of right-wing group, Hind Rakshak Dal – including the son of the current mayor of Indore – stormed the stage and argued that Faruqui had hurt their sentiments, seeking a promise that he would refrain from cracking jokes about Hinduism in future.
Shortly after, the group forced Faruqui and others performing – including, Nalin Yadav, Prakhar Vyas, Priyam Vyas, Edvin Anthony and Sadakat Khan – to a local police station where they filed a complaint against them for violating Sections 269, 295-A, 298, 188 & 34 of Indian Penal Code (IPC). The complainants alleged that the group had violated COVID-19 guidance, did not have the proper permissions to hold the event, and had hurt religious sentiments.
Faruqui’s requests for bail were declined on several occasions. On 25 January, the judge presiding over the Madhya Pradesh High Court bail hearing, stated that “Such people must not be spared” and questioned his “mindset”, according to Live Law despite police having admitted that there was no evidence to support the case.
While Faruqui has subsequently been granted interim bail – a form of temporary bail that is granted while a person’s regular bail petition is pending before a court – by a higher court, two of those arrested alongside him remain in custody, according to media reports.
Following his release, Faruqui published a video on YouTube in which he spoke about his comedy, his intentions and asserted that this case will not silence him.
The End Blasphemy Laws Coalition urges the authorities to uphold its obligations to safeguard freedom of expression as prescribed by Articles 19 in the Constitution of India and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, by dropping its investigation into stand-up comedian Munawar Faruqui.