A Supreme Court bench on Friday stayed criminal proceedings against “Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah” actor Munmun Dutta for allegedly using a casteist slur, saying, “What you said may amount to bringing an entire community into disrepute.” “You say you are a woman, but tell us if women have any better rights than men or if they have equal rights?” the bench, which included Justices Hemant Gupta and V. Ramasubramanian, asked.
Senior advocate Puneet Bali, who represented Dutta, contended that in the video released on a social media site last month, Dutta did not use the word “Bhangi” on purpose, and that the term was used in West Bengal to refer to individuals who consumed intoxicants.
The bench replied that was not true. “You may not be informed. Everyone knows the meaning. Same word is used in Bangla. She was in Kolkata when she said this,” noted the top court.
Bali said his client made a mistake and removed her Twitter tweet two hours after it was posted. Bali claimed that the Supreme Court had grouped FIRs originating from the same incident in various cases and requested that the cases be transferred to Mumbai.
After hearing Dutta’s lawyer, the Supreme Court sent notice to state governments and complainants that the FIRs registered in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Haryana should be combined.
With a YouTube video, the actor sparked anger, prompting the filing of FIRs under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Dutta later apologised and removed the offending part of the video. She stated that she used the word due to a misunderstanding of the language barrier.
Bali told the judge that the petitioner was a lady who had five FIRs filed against her. However, the Supreme Court agreed to hear her appeal and stayed the proceedings in the FIRs.
The Supreme Court also issued a notice to a Dalit rights activist and lawyer who filed the initial FIR against the actor on May 13 in Haryana’s Hisar. For allegedly insulting the community, a FIR was filed under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.