The Maha Vikas Aghadi government of Maharashtra, purportedly led by the Shiv Sena and headed by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray seems to have grown a fondness of being shamed in the highest courts of the country for their vindictive hounding of those who do not toe their line in the state. Freedom of speech and expression are increasingly becoming alien concepts in Maharashtra, as people fear being beaten up, arrested and tonsured for speaking their minds. However, while Maharashtra may be down a dark path, the country is not, and the courts of the country are making sure that anti-democratic mindset of any government is kicked out of the park.
The Maharashtra Police has been relentlessly trying to intimidate Kangana Ranaut over supposed provocative statements made by her in the recent past. Unsurprisingly, charges of sedition are also being rigorously pursued against Kangana and her sister, Rangoli Chandel. The Bombay High Court went on to grant the two petitioners interim protection from any coercive police action until January 8 next year. The High Court also seriously questioned the sedition charges being pursued against Kangana and her sister.
“It has become a trend to add 124A IPC (sedition) in the complaint. What is the need? Are we treating our citizens like this?” the bench comprising Justice Shinde and Justice Karnik said. “We are of the prima facie opinion that interim protection till the matter is heard at length deserves to be granted. The police shall not take any coercive action including arrest against the applicants (Ranaut and Chandel),” the court added.
This comes as a fresh blow not just for the Maharashtra Police, but also for the Shiv Sena-led government running the entire show in the state. Earlier, the government’s bid to intimidate, hound and prevent senior journalist Arnab Goswami from carrying out his professional duties was foiled by the Supreme Court, which granted interim bail to Goswami after unsparingly taking the MVA government to the cleaners.
On Tuesday, meanwhile, the Supreme Court also expressed its inclination to issue a notice to Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Speaker Nana Patole from the Congress party for his nudge to the Assembly Deputy Secretary to threaten Goswami from approaching the top court for judicial remedy. Chief Justice of India S.A. Bodbe said, “The Speaker should not argue tomorrow he wasn’t heard by this court.” This came in the backdrop of Deputy Secretary of the Maharashtra Assembly, Vilas Athawale telling the top court that he did not threaten Goswami in any way, while also revealing that he was merely acting on the instructions of the Assembly Speaker.
For the Maharashtra Assembly Speaker to soon be issued a notice by the Supreme Court will indeed be a big development. While the Maharashtra government might have thought that it can go on hounding free citizens without being held accountable, to the contrary, it is being dragged to the courts and being made to answer questions about its seemingly criminal overreach. The Maharashtra government is being dealt one blow after the other by the courts of the country.