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HC restrains police from arresting Editor in Prophet’s cartoon row

Bombay High Court

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court today restrained Maharashtra government and police from taking any coercive steps, including arrest, against the Editor of an Urdu daily at the centre of a row over publishing the cover of French magazine Charlie Hebdo that featured a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad.

The interim order was passed by a division bench of Justices Ranjit More and Anuja Prabhudesai on a petition filed by Shirin Dalvi, Editor of Urdu newspaper Awadhnama, whose Mumbai edition has been shut down following the publication of the cartoon last month.

46-year-old Dalvi, a resident of Mumbra in nearby Thane district, has sought quashing of the cases against her and clubbing together all cases filed against her following the publication of the cartoon while she prayed for a direction to prevent the government and police from taking coercive action against her, including arrest.

The matter was adjourned till February 11 after Public Prosecutor S S Shinde sought time to seek instructions from the government on the relief sought by Dalvi.

The newspaper had reproduced the cartoon published in French Satirical magazine ‘Charlie Hebdo’, the target of an attack by Islamist militants last month.

Altogether, five cases have been filed against Dalvi under section 295 A of IPC which deals with outraging religious feelings of people with deliberate and malacious intent. The cases include two in Mumbai, two in Thane and one in Malegaon, prosecutor Shinde informed the court.

Dalvi had secured a regular bail after her arrest in the first case filed in Mumbra town, while she had got anticipatory bail in the one filed at N M Joshi Marg police station in Mumbai, her lawyers Mihir Desai and Chetan Mali told the court.

While seeking interim relief, advocate Desai said the petitioner was not going home as she feared for her life.

The Editor pleaded that she was the only woman Editor of an Urdu daily newspaper in India and that due to the events following the publication of the Prophet’s cartoon she is facing threats of physical attacks. Several FIRs have been filed against her and she also had to abandon her home.

Dalvi further said that her children had to discontinue their education and were compelled to go incognito along with their mother out of fear of physical harm.

The newspaper had published the cartoon on January 17 and the very next day it had apologised for carrying it. On January 19, the newspaper had closed down as it apprehended violence.

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