The Bombay High Court has restrained the Maharashtra police from arresting Union Minister Narayan Rane over an FIR filed against him in Dhule district in connection with his 'slap' remark targeted at state Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.

A Bench of Justice P B Varale and Justice S M Modak granted interim protection to the minister after the state government's counsel Y P Yagnik said that the police were not willing to make a statement that they will not arrest Rane in the case until further others from the court.

Rane, a BJP leader, had approached the High Court earlier this year seeking quashing of the FIR registered against him in Dhule district of north Maharashtra over his remark against the CM. His counsel, advocate Satish Maneshinde, had sought that in the interim, Rane be granted protection from arrest.

On Thursday, Maneshinde had told the High Court that there was another FIR registered by the Nashik police against Rane over his remarks. The minister had approached the High Court last year for quashing of the Nashik FIR and the Nashik police had undertaken to not take any coercive action against him, he said.

The High Court had then asked the state government to take instructions and inform the court if a similar statement could be made in the present case.

Today Yagnik said, "I have taken instructions and the police cannot make any statements. The Court may pass appropriate orders."

The High Court then said it will grant interim protection to Rane for two weeks.

"This is an interim protection. In the meanwhile, if you (Rane) apprehend arrest, you can seek appropriate legal remedies," the High Court said.

In August last year, Rane had sparked off a row over his remark about slapping Thackeray for what he claimed was the latter's ignorance of the year of India's independence.

"It is shameful that the chief minister does not know the year of independence. He leaned back to enquire about the count of years of independence during his speech. Had I been there, I would have given (him) a tight slap," Rane had said during his Jan Ashirwad Yatra in Raigad district on August 23 last year. The next day, the minister was arrested in Raigad over his remark and was released on bail hours later.

With PTI inputs