SC quashes criminal case against MS Dhoni in ‘Lord Vishnu’ picture controversy

The Supreme Court today quashed the criminal proceedings pending before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate at Bengaluru against cricketer MS Dhoni for allegedly hurting religious sentiments.

A bench of Ranjan Gogoi and PC Pant JJ quashed the proceedings thereby overturning the decision of the Karnataka High Court which had refused to interfere with the proceedings.

Senior Advocate Subramonium Prasad appeared for MS Dhoni along with advocate Liz Mathew.

The controversy has its origins in an article published in Business Today on April 14, 2013 which allegedly carried a picture of Dhoni as Lord Vishnu. Criminal complaints under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) were filed in different parts of the country alleging that Dhoni had hurt religious sentiments, and had also insulted and defamed members of Hindu religion. Most cases filed in different parts of the country were dismissed.

However, the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate at Bengaluru took cognizance of a complaint before him and initiated proceedings. Dhoni then approached the Karnataka High Court to quash the proceedings under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. But the High Court refused to entertain his case and directed him to approach the revision court under Section 397 of the CrPC. Dhoni then challenged this judgment of the High Court in the Supreme Court.

One of his main contentions was that no court can take cognizance of an offence under Section 295A of IPC except with the previous sanction of the concerned Government under Section 196 (1) of CrPC. Dhoni had contended that no such sanction was obtained in the instant case and yet the CMM proceeded to take cognizance of the complaint.

Dhoni had also submitted that he is not guilty of the offence under Section 295A since he was not even aware of the publication of his image in the said manner. He had contended that neither did he pose for such an image nor was his permission sought prior to its publication. He had, therefore, submitted that there is no mens rea attributable to him and thus, he cannot be held responsible for hurting the religious sentiments of any individual.

Image taken from here.