bombay high court

Bombay High Court: In an application under Section 482 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (‘CrPC’) seeking to quash First Information Report (‘FIR’) for offences punishable under Sections 295-A of Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC’), 3(1)(v) of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (‘SC ST Act’), and 67-A of Information Technology Act, 2000 (‘IT Act’), Vinay Joshi* and Valmiki S.A. Menezes, JJ. rejected the same since the applicant indeed posted a WhatsApp status and investigation was underway.

The informant in the instant matter complained that on 23-03-2023, he checked WhatsApp status wherein, the applicant had posed a question to be searched on Google. In pursuance of the same, the informant Google searched and noted the “objectionable material amounting to outraging the religious feeling of a Class” which was reported through the impugned FIR.

The applicant explained the same to be seen by his saved contacts and not to harm the feelings of a particular group and opposed the application of provisions of SC ST Act or IT Act.

The Court was of the view that WhatsApp status instigate others to do Google search and read what applicant intends. It further explained that “WhatsApp status can be a picture or video of what you are doing, thinking or something you have seen. By status you share is end-to-end in encrypted text, photo, video and updates that disappear after 24 hours. The very purpose of WhatsApp status is to convey something to his contacts.”

The Court suggested that a person should behave with a sense of responsibility while communicating something to others and cannot justify the same through limited circulation. The Court viewed the contents of FIR as the applicant’s deliberate and malicious intention to insult the feelings of a group.

The Court explained that the Court’s inherent powers under Section 482 of CrPC must be exercised sparingly, carefully and with great caution, when the same is justified by the test specifically laid in the said provision. The Court did not find the instant case fit for invoking such powers since the investigation was still at the initial stage and the case carried no merits, and therefore rejected the instant application.

[Kishor v. State of Maharashtra, 2023 SCC OnLine Bom 1515, judgment dated 12-07-2023]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For Applicant: Advocate S.S. Dhengale;

For Non-Applicant: Additional Public Prosecutor N.R. Rode, Advocate P.S. Wathore.

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