The Gujarat High Court on Monday dismissed an application seeking anticipatory bail by Mumbai-based filmmaker Avinash Das, who was booked for sharing a photo of Union Home Minister Amit Shah with an arrested Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of Jharkhand, and a painting allegedly insulting the national flag, on social media platforms.
The court also rejected his submission to offer an “unconditional apology” while calling his social media posts “a mistake” as he did not intend to insult.
Since prima facie it appears that the applicant had insulted the national flag, the court would be very circumspect of releasing the applicant at this stage, the High Court said in its order, while observing that the applicant had violated the provisions of the Prevention of Insults to the National Honour Act by circulating a painting showing a person wearing a dress made of the tricolour.
In his application, Mr. Das, through his lawyer, submitted that the old photo of the Home Minister with a Jharkhand cadre IAS officer who was recently arrested by the Enforcement Directorate, which he had shared, was a bailable offence, and hence he did not seek any pre-arrest bail in that case.
However, his lawyer Suhail Tirmizi submitted that the photograph/painting was circulated by his client for its “aesthetic” value, and beyond the same, he had no other intention whatsoever. He also submitted that the applicant was ready to submit an unconditional apology for the “mistake”.
The Court ruled that insult to the national flag cannot be a mistake.
“Before we proceed further, it may be remembered that from time immemorial people have laid down their lives with a view to salute their own flag. What is so compelling in the piece of cloth called the national flag that people make even the supreme sacrifice for its sake? The national flag, indisputably, stands for the whole nation, its ideals, aspirations, its hopes and achievements.” the court observed.
Mr. Das was booked by the Ahmedabad Crime Branch after he shared an old photograph which, according to the FIR, amounted to tarnishing the image of the Union Home Minister.
Additionally, he was also booked for allegedly insulting national honour by sharing a photo, on his Instagram and Facebook accounts, of a woman wearing the tricolour. The offence, if established, invites a maximum jail term of three years.
Earlier, he had approached Ahmedabad Sessions court seeking anticipatory bail, which rejected it. The Mumbai High Court has rejected his transit anticipatory bail in the case.
The police had booked the filmmaker under Sections 469 of the IPC (forgery for purpose of harming reputation) for sharing the photo featuring Mr. Shah and the tainted bureaucrat, and Section 2 of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, and also the Information Technology Act.
Mr. Das is a Mumbai-based filmmaker who directed the 2017 film Anaarkali of Aarah, starring Swara Bhaskar, Sanjay Mishra and Pankaj Tripathi, and Raat Baaki Hai, which released in 2021. He has also helmed the Netflix series She.