Supreme Court on January 21, 2023, ordered that no coercive actions shall be taken in relation to the FIRs registered against filmmaker Leena Manimekalai in various states for allegedly offending the religious sentiments of Hindus.
Criminal cases have been registered against Leena Manimekalai for showing Goddess Kali smoking a cigarette in a poster of her upcoming documentary film. She moved to the Supreme Court seeking protection in these cases.
The Bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud and Justice PS Narasimha directed, “No coercive steps shall be taken against the petitioner either on basis of the FIRs already registered or pursuant to any other FIR which may have been or will be lodged in relation to the same matter.”
Senior Advocate Kamini Jaiswal and Advocate-on-Record Indira Unninayar told the Court that Manimekalai is a leading poet and filmmaker. Her work has been recognized and awarded.
Bench enquired, “Where these FIRs have been filed?” “There are 6 FIRs. We are told that there are many more”, submitted Senior Advocate appearing on behalf of the petitioner.
Multiple FIRs/ criminal cases were registered against Manimekalai in the States of Delhi, UP (Uttar Pradesh), Uttarakhand, MP (Madhya Pradesh), and several others, while Madhya Pradesh issued a lookout order against her.
The Supreme Court said, “The petitioner is a graduate student in Canada. She has produced a short film “Kaali” depicting the goddess. The submission is that there is no intent to hurt religious feelings. The object was to depict the goddess in an inclusive sense. At this stage, it may be noted that the lodging of FIRs in multiple cases may be of serious prejudice.”
The Court has also issued a notice for the compilation of all FIRs in one place and thereafter has granted the right to file a plea for quashing a criminal case before the High Court.
The order added that “Multiple FIRs in several states will be a matter of serious prejudice. We issue notice to have all FIRs consolidated at one place and then the petitioner will be at liberty to file a Section 482 CrPc plea.”
Section 482 of the CrPc enables a person to move the High Court concerned for quashing the FIRs.
Supreme Court order stated that “List the petition on February 20, 2023. In the meantime, no coercive steps shall be taken against the petitioner either on basis of the FIRs as noted above or pursuant to any other FIR which may have been or will be lodged in relation to the same offence.”
The Bench also noted that there is a lookout circular (LoC) issued by the Madhya Pradesh police against Manimekalai since she is a Canada-based filmmaker, and ordered that no action will be taken by the airport authorities regarding the LoC too.
Multiple FIRs have been registered against the filmmaker after she shared the poster of her upcoming documentary film ‘Kaali’ on the microblogging site in July 2022, which she produced as part of her academic project as a student in Canada. She added that her documentary was part of the ‘Rhythms of Canada’ segment at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto.
The social media post outraged a widespread protest and prompted Indian High Commission to ask Canadian authorities to remove the posters.
Multiple FIRs were registered against Leena Manimekalai invoking Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on the grounds of religion and doing acts prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony) and 295A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).