The Madhya Pradesh High Court, Indore Bench while allowing a petition filed under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code has quashed the criminal proceedings against the applicant who is running a business of pharmacy for hurting the religious sentiments of the Hindu community through an advertisement of Condom that featured a couple playing Garba.

A Single Bench of Justice Satyendra Kumar Singh ordered –

"Upon perusal of the alleged post, it is apparent that the contents of the same are not obscene hence, ingredients of Section 67 of the I.T. Act are also not fulfilled. In view of the above, allowing the prosecution to continue the case would amount to abuse of the process of Court, therefore, it is necessary to quash the proceedings in order to serve the ends of just."

The Bench also directed to quash the FIR registered against the applicant for the offences punishable under Sections 295-A and 505 of the Indian Penal Code.

Advocate R.S. Raghuvanshi appeared on behalf of the applicant while Advocate Mamta Shandilya represented the State.

In this case, a complainant made a written complaint to the SHO Police Station, Indore to the effect that a person holding a particular mobile number posted an image on WhatsApp groups and the Facebook page showing "Pre Loveratri Weekend Offer - Condoms (pack of 3)/Pregnancy Test Kit at INR 0", giving an offer providing free of cost condom pack and pregnancy kit. In the background of the said image, a couple playing Garba was shown hurting the religious sentiments of the people.

Based on such a complaint, FIR was registered and during the investigation, it was found that the applicant, being a holder of the mobile number posted the alleged image and hurt the religious feelings and sentiments of the complainant and other followers of the Hindu religion. The prosecution sanction was obtained and after the completion of the investigation, a charge sheet was filed against the applicant before the Court of JMFC. Hence, the applicant approached the High Court for quashing the FIR, consequent charge sheet, and subsequent criminal proceedings.

The counsel for the applicant submitted before the Court that the applicant himself belongs to the Hindu community and is a religious man. It was further submitted that a bare perusal of the said image does not show any intention of the applicant to create or promote any feelings of enmity, hatred, or ill-will between different religious groups or it does not insult any religion or outrage the religious feelings of any class. It was also submitted that as soon as the applicant came to know about the fact of registration of FIR, he immediately removed the said image from social media platforms and WhatsApp groups and also apologized for the same publicly.

However, the counsel for the State opposed the prayer of the applicant and submitted that the applicant posted the disputed image on social media and it is apparent from the image that the same hurt the religious feelings of the Hindu community. It was further argued that such type of offer during the Navratri period itself shows the criminal intention of the applicant.

The High Court after hearing the contentions of both parties, noted, "… it appears that his intention was just to promote the product of his company and not to hurt the religious feelings and sentiments of any community. In this regard, the order passed by the Apex Court in the case of Salman Khan (supra) can also be relied upon, wherein the FIR lodged against Salman Khan for releasing his movie titled Loveratri during Navarati period has been quashed."

The Court further discharged the applicant from the charges levelled against him along with the bail bond being furnished.

Accordingly, the Court allowed the petition and quashed the case against the applicant.

Cause Title – Mahendra Tripathi v. The State of Madhya Pradesh

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