Police authorities in the Indian state of Bihar have booked as many as 49 noted personalities under different sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for tarnishing the country's image by writing a letter to the Prime Minister in July over the rising incidents of mob lynching.
The eminent personalities include filmmakers Mani Ratnam, Anurag Kashyap, Shyam Benegal, actor Soumitra Chatterjee as well as vocalist Shubha Mudgal, besides writer Ramachandra Guha and filmmaker, screenwriter and actress Aparna Sen.
On Thursday, a First Information Report (FIR) was lodged against the celebrities in Bihar's Muzaffarpur district.
The case was lodged in Muzaffarpur after an order was passed by Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) Surya Kant Tiwari two months ago on a petition filed by local advocate Sudhir Kumar Ojha.
"The CJM passed the order on 20 August, accepting my petition upon the receipt of which, an FIR was lodged today (Thursday), at the Sadar police station," the petitioner told Indian television channel NDTV.
In his plea, Ojha named 49 signatories to the letter, accusing them of having "tarnished the image of the country and undermined the impressive performance of the Prime Minister" besides "supporting secessionist tendencies".
Police said the FIR was lodged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including those relating to sedition, public nuisance, hurting religious feelings and insulting with an intent to provoke breach of peace.
The letter said that the mob killing of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities must be stopped immediately, and stressed that there was "no democracy without dissent". It also noted that "Jai Shri Ram" had been reduced to a "provocative war cry".
Several mob lynchings, launched under one pretext or another, have weighed on India's national conscience for some time now.
On 1 January, Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the mob lynching being carried out in the name of protecting cows as "totally condemnable", and said such incidents do not reflect well on a civilised society.
In July, India's apex court had asked the Narendra Modi-led government to frame a law to deal with the increasing incidents of lynching and mob violence across the country.
The Supreme Court of India had recently said that brutal acts of "mobocracy" could not be allowed to become a new norm in the country.