HC restrains police from arresting editor of Urdu daily in Prophet’s cartoon row

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The Bombay High Court on Monday restrained the 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.

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

Dalvi (46), a resident of Mumbra in the Thane district, has sought quashing of the cases against her and clubbing of all cases filed against her following the publication of the cartoon. She had also sought a direction to prevent the government and police from taking coercive action against her, including arrest.

The matter was adjourned till February 11.

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 2950A (outraging religious feelings of people with deliberate and malacious intent) of the Indian Penal Code — two in Mumbai, two in Thane and one in Malegaon.

Dalvi had secured a regular bail after her arrest in one case while and anticipatory bail in another, 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.

Dalvi pleaded 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 contended that her children were forced to discontinue their education and were compelled to go incognito along with their mother out of fear of physical harm.

In January 17, the newspaper had published the cartoon and the very next day it had apologised for carrying it. On January 19, the newspaper closed down citing apprehension of violence. The cartoon had offended several people.