The Punjab and Haryana High Court has quashed the FIRs registered against BJP leader Tejinder Pal Singh Bagga and former AAP Leader Kumar Vishwas in connection with alleged provocative statements made against Chief Minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal for his remarks about the film Kashmir Files.

The Court quashed the FIRs registered against BJP leader Tejinder Pal Singh Bagga who was accused of making false, fabricated, and communally divisive statements against Delhi's Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

The Bench of Justice Anoop Chitkara observed that "There is nothing to infer that the statement was so inciting that it would fall within the purview of hate speech and that it led to any violence or made fault lines in the structures of communities. Although the statement appears crude and uncouth, it does not have any disguised or obscured meaning. The statement was not a vitriolic diatribe and cannot be read so narrowly that its delivery was to only spread hatred towards a particular group."

The context in which the FIR came to be registered was that on March 11, 2022, Hindi movie, "The Kashmir Files," was released.

The Petitioner-Tejinder Pal Singh Bagga claimed that various State Governments granted Entertainment Tax exemptions to the movie, and when a similar demand of concession was made for Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi's Chief Minister, in the State's Assembly not only refused to grant any such concession but allegedly also mocked the authenticity of the movie's storyline.

The enraged Petitioner gave an interview on March 30, 2022, to the media in which he severely criticized Arvind Kejriwal.

A complaint was made to the Cyber Crime Cell of Punjab Police at Mohali against Bagga and other unknown persons for causing instigation, incitement, criminal intimidation to cause violence, use of force, imminent threat of life to Arvind Kejriwal and other leaders of Aam Admi Party (AAP.)

The complainant further stated that the statement made by the Petitioner-Bagga, "Sh. Arvind Kejriwal, what he is saying today, today I want to say that Hindus will tell his status in this country. What he has said today, he should apologize and if he doesn't apologize, this worker of Bhartiya Janta Yuva Morcha will not let him live," had caused serious repercussions.

Based on this complaint, FIR under Sections 153-A, 505, 505(2) & 506 of the Indian Penal Code was registered.

Senior Advocates Randeep Singh Rai and Chetan Mittal appeared for the Petitioner- Tejinder Pal Singh Bagga whereas Senior Advocate Puneet Bali appeared for the State. Senior Advocate Akshay Bhan appeared for the Complainant.

The Court observed that the contention that it was an act of criminal intimidation, a threat to kill, to a reasonable person is not conceivable if the statement is analyzed and read in entirety. The Court further noted that the petitioner's statement did not seek an armed rebellion and was not a call to assault.

"If a gangster, mafia, or a recidivist makes a statement that he will not let somebody live, the first probable reasonable assumption that is likely to be drawn is a threat to assassinate, however, an ordinary person, e.g., a nagging spouse or a disgruntled boss, makes such a statement in response to the doing or undoing of something, it would altogether have a different first impression.", the Court noted.

As per the response filed by the police, the petitioner had a criminal history, which he had declared while submitting his application form for the Delhi assembly elections.

The Court observed that all these were for non-serious offences registered a decade earlier, and lacked proximity to the interview.

The Court noted that based on this criminal history, there was nothing to assume that the petitioner is a habitual offender, or a gangster, or a mafia, or an anti-social element.

The Court further observed that "The purported statement of the petitioner is a protest against the statement made by the leader of AAP in power in Delhi and Punjab, where the BJP is in opposition. Being a political activist and an official spokesperson of a political party, as a shadow of the incumbent, it was well within his rights to make the people aware of the response of an opposite political leader."

"According to the petitioner, the movie, 'The Kashmir Files', had exposed the genocide of a minority, i.e., Hindus, in Kashmir. The petitioner put forth his displeasure because the party in power did not accept his demand to make the movie tax-free. It was well within his rights to raise such protests.", the Court noted further.

Therefore, the Court quashed the FIR registered against Bagga.

The Court also quashed the FIR registered against former AAP Leader Kumar Vishwas who was accused of leveling imputations about the involvement of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal with certain nefarious and anti-social elements.

Kumar Vishwas was arraigned as an accused for violating sections 153, 153-A, 505, 505(2), 116, 143, 147, 323, 341, 120-B of IPC and Section 125 of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1951.

It was alleged that the timing and nature of the proactive statements were purposefully and strategically aimed to spread a communal narrative to create unrest and instability across Punjab during the elections to the State Legislative Assembly, and this instigation subjected AAP supporters to hatred, hostility, distrust, and vengeful violence, significantly rupturing the peaceful religious fabric of Punjab.

Senior Advocate R.S.Rai representing Kumar Vishwas, stated that the FIR was politically motivated whereas Senior Advocate Puneet Bali appearing for the State of Punjab argued that if the FIR is quashed, it would amount to not letting the police fulfill its statutory obligation to investigate a crime of serious ramifications. It was further contended that as per the daily diary reports, similar incidents occurred on February 18, 2022, in Chamkaur Sahib Vidhan Sabha constituency as a repercussion of the interview given by Vishwas.

However, the Court noted that the incidents of February 18, 2022, at Chamkaur Sahib, would have a separate cause of action.

The Court observed that "Suppose all the allegations made in the complaint and the subsequent investigation are taken at the face value; still, there is not even an iota of evidence of any proximity between the interview and the incidents of Chamkaur Sahib, etc., and the one that had taken place on April 12, 2022, which are distinct criminal acts, and are neither an outburst of the interview of the petitioner given on Feb. 2022 nor did such interview snowball to make it happen."

The Court held that none of the penal provisions under which Kumar Vishwas stood arraigned, are prima facie made out against him.

"Given above, it is a fit case for this court to prevent the abuse of the process of law because the allegations made in the complaint and the investigation do not contain any material which even remotely links the incidents including that of April 12 with the interviews of the petitioner.", the Court noted before quashing the FIR.

Cause Title- Tejinder Pal Singh Bagga v. State of Punjab and Anr.

Cause Title- Kumar Vishwas v. State of Punjab and Anr.

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