The Maharashtra government on Wednesday made a statement before the Bombay High Court on Wednesday that no coercive action will be taken against Union Minister Narayan Rane in the first information report (FIR) registered by the Nashik Police for allegedly making derogatory statements against Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
Senior Advocate Amit Desai, special counsel for the Maharashtra government, submitted that the petition mentioned details of only one FIR which was filed by the Nashik Police.
Since the other FIRs were not mentioned and the provisions of law were also not stated, it would be difficult for him to get instructions on the other FIRs, he said.
However, he said he was willing to make a statement at the outset that no coercive action would be taken in the Nashik FIR till the next date of hearing while the petitioners add details of the other FIRs and annex copies.
"His immediate concern is this FIR, I am willing to make this statement," Desai submitted.
The Bench of Justices SS Shinde and NJ Jamadar granted time to Rane's lawyers to amend the petition and proceeded to record the statement.
Advocate Satish Maneshinde appearing for Rane pressed for no coercive action in the other FIRs as there was apprehension that the police may take action in other FIRs in the meantime.
Maneshinde stated that there were statements issued in the press, including by State Cabinet Ministers, that "whatever we want to achieve, we have achieved".
The Court, however, clarified that they are not willing to grant any relief without having all details in the petition.
"We are not saying no, but we need basis for quashing of FIRs, pleadings, grounds, etc.." the Court stated.
Advocate Amit Desai stated that while he was making a statement, Rane also ought to undertake not to make any offensive statements considering he is protected.
Maneshinde vehemently objected to the same. He submitted that he was not going to take any steps that would curb his freedom of speech.
He added that if such an undertaking was expected from his client, then even the prosecution client is required to show restraint in making statement.
The Bench stated that they were only expecting both parties to act within the framework of law and adjourned the matter for September 17, 2021.
Rane was booked by way of multiple FIRs under Sections 153A(2) (promoting enmity causing disharmony in society), 500 (defamation) and 505(2) (inciting violence) of the Indian Penal Code.
He pleaded in his petition that "he is innocent and has been falsely implicated in this crime" adding that the prosecution failed to show the mens rea or criminal intention on Rane’s part while committing the alleged crime.
His petition stated that “effects of the words must be judged from the standards of the reasonable, strong minded firm and courageous men and not those of weak and vacillating minds nor of those who scent danger in every hostile point of view.”
Rane argued that the multiple FIRs which are already lodged or are being lodged against him, were only with an intention to harass him by launching false prosecution.
Maneshinde appeared along with Advocates Aniket Nikam and Ashish Satpute.