India’s top court has granted interim bail to a Muslim stand-up comedian who was jailed for more than a month over jokes he did not tell, but was “going to”.
The comedian, 30-year-old Munawar Faruqui, was arrested on January 1 following a complaint by the son of a politician from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The complainant alleged Faruqui had made objectionable remarks about Hindu deities and the powerful home minister, Amit Shah, during a show at a cafe in Indore, a city in Madhya Pradesh state governed by Modi’s party.
Stand-up comedy has become hugely popular in recent years in India, where intentionally hurting religious sentiments is a criminal offence.
But Faruqui was arrested preemptively before his performance even began.
“Before he could even make the joke, before he could even really start the show, police came and dragged him away,” said Anshuman Shrivastava, Faruqui’s lawyer.
36 days of jail and 3 bail rejections by lower courts later, the SC has granted #MunawarFaruqui "interim" relief.
To clarify, his plea to quash the Indore FIR is still pending. So, the cases against him in UP and MP stand. @Article14live
— Kunal Purohit (@kunalpurohit) February 5, 2021
In his plea, Faruqui said police did not conduct investigations or collect any evidence before arresting him.
Indore police initially claimed “objectionable comments” were made against Hindu deities at the comedy event.
Later, the city’s superintendent of police, Vijay Khatri, told Article 14, an Indian news website, that Faruqui had not made the jokes during a performance but was “going to”.
On Friday, a Supreme Court bench said the allegations against Faruqui were vague and granted him interim bail after three lower courts refused to do so.
Faruqui was not immediately available for comment.
The ire of Hindu nationalist groups aligned with Modi’s party has also caught streaming platforms off guard. Many of their shows have faced boycott calls and legal cases.
Last month, creators of a show on Amazon’s streaming platform were charged with offending religious sentiments.