Posting a comment complaining against the laxity of administration on a public forum meant for helping the public would not amount to criminal intimidation

Supreme Court: Deciding the present case where the question arose that whether posting a comment on a social networking site rebuking or complaining against the administration for poor provision of service is a crime, the Court observed that on a public forum meant for helping the public, posting such comment would not attract the ingredients of criminal intimidation under Section 503 IPC.

As per the facts of the present case the appellants aggrieved on being ill treated by a police official posted comment on the official Facebook page of Bangalore Traffic Police naming the Inspector and wrote an email complaining about the harassment at the hands of the Inspector. The official in turn filed complaints against the appellants for the comment under Sections 353 and 506 of IPC. The appellants further filed a petition seeking quashment of proceedings, which was rejected by the Karnataka High Court whereby the appellants appealed to the Supreme Court. Vikas Upadhyay on behalf of the appellants argued that the Facebook page of the Bangalore Traffic Police is a public forum meant for citizens to discuss and put forth their grievances thus the comments posted by the appellants does not constitute an offence. The counsel for the respondent Joseph Aristotle however argued that a derogatory comment on the social networking site amounts to threatening and criminal intimidation within Section 506 affecting the Inspector’s reputation and integrity.

On perusing the arguments the Division Bench of V.G. Gowda and R. Banumathi, JJ., observed that essential requisite of registration of FIR under Section 353 IPC is that the person accused of the offence should have assaulted the public servant or used criminal force with the intention to prevent or deter the public servant from discharging his duty as such public servant but in the present case neither any force nor any assault was made against the Inspector. The Court further observed that in matters of ‘criminal intimidation’ the intention of the accused is to be seen, the threat must be with intention to cause alarm to the complainant to cause that person to do or omit to do any work. Mere expression of any words without any intention to cause alarm would not be sufficient to bring in the application of Section 503. The Court held that the page created by the traffic police on the Facebook was a forum for the public to put forth their grievances, the appellants might have posted the comment online under good faith that it was within the permissible limits therefore none of above-mentioned Sections are attracted. Manik Taneja v. State of Karnataka, 2015 SCC OnLine SC 51, decided on 20.01.2015

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