The Maharashtra government assured the Bombay High Court on Monday that actress Ketaki Chitale would not be arrested in connection with twenty-one First Information Reports (FIRs) filed against her for allegedly reproducing a derogatory poem against Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Chief Sharad Pawar on Facebook.
A division bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and NR Borkar accepted the statement and scheduled a hearing on her quashing petition for July 12, 2022.
After more than 40 days in prison, the actor was finally granted bail by the Thane Sessions court, Chitale was detained on May 14 after she shared a post reportedly written by advocate Nitin Bhave in which he refers to a “80-year-old man Pawar” as a “mosquito” who “hates Brahmins.”
Arrested in Thane district’s Kalwa police station on the basis of a FIR lodged by Swapnil Netke, a local NCP functionary. The poem made reference to the NCP leader’s surname (Pawar), age (80), and physical issues.
Soon after the post, a FIR was filed at Kalwa police station in Thane district under Indian Penal Code Sections 500 (defamation), 501 (printing or engraving defamatory matter), and 153A (promoting hatred between different groups) (IPC).
Following then, 21 further FIRs were filed against the actress. She is, however, free on bail after a Thane court ordered her release in the first Kalwa FIR.
In her plea, the actress said that the Police’s eagerness to file repeated FIRs against her proved that she was being targeted as an object capable of instilling fear in the minds of the public.
“An invisible hand is targeting the petitioner and there is a concerted effort to strike fear in minds of people of Maharashtra in general and the petitioner in particular so as to deter everyone against coming out with any expressions of views that would offend some ‘Pawar’.”
On Monday, Chief PP Aruna Pai stated that Chitale will not be arrested until additional directives are issued. Hare Krishna Mishra, an advocate, represented the actor. As a result, the court accepted the declaration that Chitale is protected from coercive action.
While rejecting her bail plea last month, a local Magistrate noted that if she was released on bail, she would have no fear of the law; there was a chance she would commit a similar type of offence again; and a wrong message would be sent to the public.
However, Thane Sessions Court Judge HM Patwardhan granted Chitale bail last week after the police did not object to her release in their further reply. The case would be heard again on July 12.