Setback for makers of 'Tandav' as SC denies protection

Setback for makers of Amazon web series 'Tandav' as Supreme Court denies protection

The apex court asked them to approach the High Courts for anticipatory bail or quashing of FIRs

Supporters of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) take part in a protest against a new web series 'Tandav', in Mumbai. Credit: AFP Photo

The Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to grant protection from arrest to 'Tandav' web series producers and actor Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub in multiple FIRs lodged in different states for allegedly hurting religious sentiments.

A three-judge bench presided over by Justice Ashok Bhushan, however, agreed to examine their plea for clubbing the cases lodged in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Delhi and other places to one place.

The top court heard three petitions filed by Amazon Prime Video India head Aparna Purohit, 'Tandav' web series producer Himanshu Mehra and actor Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub and others. It issued notice to various states on their plea for consolidating the cases to one place.

Senior advocates Fali S Nariman, Mukul Rohatgi and Siddharth Luthra asked the court to issue order against any coercive action against the petitioners.

The court turned down the request, saying they may approach the respective High Courts for anticipatory bail. 

"We may consider the request for clubbing the FIRs. We cannot take the power of the High Court under the Criminal Procedure Code," the bench said.

Ayyub's counsel contended that an actor was contacted to play a character. His views ascribed on screen cannot be prescribed to him in person, he said.

To this, the bench said, "You cannot take up role without reading script. You cannot play a role hurting religious sentiments of others."

The petitioners relied upon the recent top court's judgement in journalists Arnab Goswami and Amish Devgan cases. 

Luthra submitted that this was an analytical serial about political and social issue. "When objection was taken, we deleted the scenes. Amazon and other OTT platforms are not like Doordarshan etc. It is based on choice and consent, where I see only when I agree to watch a political satire for example," he said.