Karnataka High Court: B.A. Patil, J., dismissing the present petition, observed,
“Taking into consideration the peculiar facts and circumstances under which the said speech has been delivered, the circumstances existing at that particular point of time and surrounding circumstances, have to be analyzed to come to a proper conclusion. At his pre-matured stage, it is not a fit case to exercise the power under Section 482 CrPC and thereby quash the proceedings.”
The facts of the case are categorically stated hereunder;
- That on 17-02-2020 the ‘Popular Front of India’ organization held a function in the name of founding day at Derlakatter Ground, Belma village, Mangalore City.
- That the petitioner, in the aforementioned function, delivered a speech commenting upon the Supreme Court and its verdict on Ayodhya. Allegedly, the speech said to construct Babri Masjid at the same place, wearing uniform representing Allah and further called Home Minister and Prime Minister Modi as demons, who shall perish on their own.
- That the speech delivered was allegedly provocative, inflammable and derogatory to the Hindu belief system and carried the potential of spreading enmity between the two religious sects.
- That on the basis of such speech, a complaint was registered against the petitioner under Section 153A IPC.
- That the present Criminal Petition is filed under Section 482 CrPC, praying to quash the FIR under Section 154A IPC contending that the charge sheet does not disclose the ingredients of the said section and no material has been placed on records, so to conclude that the speech provoked enmity or communal disharmony between any religious sects.
The Court while examining the speech in question reproduced the language of Section 153A IPC. It further cited the following cases to evaluate the intention behind making such speech.
1. Manzar Sayeed Khan v. State of Maharashtra, (2007) 5 SCC 1
“Section 153A covers a case where a person by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, promotes or attempts to promote, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities or acts prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony or is likely to disturb the public tranquility. The gist of the offence is the intention to promote feelings of enmity or hatred between different classes of people. The intention to cause disorder or incite the people to violence is the sine qua non of the offences under Section 153A IPC and the prosecution has to prove prima facie the existence of mens rea on the part of the accused.”
2. While referring to Bilal Ahmed Kaloo v. State of Andhra Pradesh, (1997) 7 SCC 431 the Court remarked that, it is important to have atleast the reference of two religions in the alleged hate speech or literature. Mere inciting the feeling of one community without any mention of another group or community cannot attract the offence under Section 153A.
3. Deriving the element of intention in the present case, the Court observed,
“On close reading of the contentions of the speech, there are two religions involved. One is the Muslim community and another one has been indirectly, in the form of innuendo, stated as ‘other religions’. Whether he was having an intention or not, is a matter which has to be considered only at the time of trial. He has to come up and explain under what circumstances, with what intention he has made such statement. Since the matter has to be decided by the trial court, if a detailed discussion is made, it may affect both the parties to the proceeding. Perusing the contents of the complaint and other records, there appears a prima facie case against the said petitioner-accused.”
With respect to the cases pleaded by the counsel for the petitioner, the Court said that the applicability of those principles in the present case does not match.
While dismissing the criminal writ petition on lack of merits, the Court said that, it shall not be fit to exercise the power provided under Section 482 CrPC as the case is yet to be tried by the lower court and the prima facie records are reflective enough to further evaluate the said matter. [Mohammed Shariff v. State of Karnataka, 2020 SCC OnLine Kar 1532, decided on 1-10-2020]