Meghalaya High Court: W. Diengdoh, J., while refusing to quash a criminal case against a journalist as the Facebook post shared by the journalist sought to create a divide to the cordial relationship between the tribal and non-tribal living in the State of Meghalaya.
Genesis of the instant matter is with regard to an incident that occurred in the month of July 2020 wherein a group of boys while playing basketball were attacked by 20-25 unidentified youths.
Police in light of the above incident registered a criminal case under Sections 326, 307, 506 and 34 of Penal Code, 1860. Investigation in view od the said event is already in progress.
Petitioner who is a journalist responded to the said incident by posting her comments on Facebook, echoing her stance against such brutal attacks meted out to non-tribal in the State and the ordeal faced by them since the past several decades. In the said post, a query was also made to respondent 3 on their obligatory role of keeping vigil at the place of occurrence and their required assistance for apprehending the culprits.
Further, the petitioner submitted that the statements made were general in nature and were made in good faith without any criminal intent or mens rea.
Respondents 4 and 5 filed a complaint against the petitioner alleging that the said Facebook post of the petitioner incited communal tension between tribal and non-tribal and defamed not only the respondent 3 but the entire village for which offence under Section 153A, 505 and 499 of Penal Code, 1860 are made out.
Police registered a criminal case under Section 153 A, 500, 505C IPC against the petitioner and issued a notice under Section 41 A CrPC requiring the petitioner to appear before the investigation officer.
Aggrieved with the above complaint, the petitioner approached the Court with an application under Section 482 CrPC.
Analysis and Decision
In Court’s opinion, what is first required to be established is whether any case is made out under Section 153 A IPC following which the issue is dispute can be decided accordingly.
Section 153 A IPC:
“[153A. Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony. – (1) Whoever-
(a) by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible grounds of religion, race place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, or
(b) commits any act which is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, and which disturbs or is likely to disturb the public tranquility, (or)
(c) organizes any exercise, movement, drill or other similar activity intending that the participants in such activity shall use or be trained to use criminal force or violence or knowing it to be likely that the participants in such activity will use or be trained to use criminal force or violence, or participates in such activity intending to use or be trained to use criminal force or violence or knowing it to be likely that the participants in such activity will use or be trained to use criminal force or violence, against any religious, racial, language or regional group or cast or community and such activity for any reason whatsoever causes or is likely to cause fear or alarm or a feeling of insecurity amongst members of such religious, racial, language or regional group or caste or community,]
shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both”.
Bench on a cursory observation of the Facebook post noticed that the author has referred to the incident which took place at the Basketball Court.
Court stated that in the said post,
There is a distinct portrayal of an alleged skirmish between two groups, one, group allegedly consisting of tribal youths and the other group consisting of non-tribal youths.
Court further observed,
What can be deduced is that there is an attempt to make a comparison between the tribals and non-tribals vis-a-vis their rights and security and the alleged tipping of the balance in favour of one community over the other.
In view of the above deduction, Court opined that the same would fall on the mischief of Section 153 A IPC as it apparently seeks to promote disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between two communities.
Supreme Court’s decision in Babu Rao v. State, (1980) 2 SCC 402 was cited wherein it was observed that,
“…It is seen that S. 153 A (1) (a) is not confined to the promotion of feelings of enmity etc. on grounds of religion only as argued by Shri Sen, but takes in promotion of such feelings on other grounds as well such as race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community….”
Bench stated that in the instant matter, it can be said that the said Facebook post sought to create a divide to the cordial relationship between the tribal and non-tribal living in the State of Meghalaya even alluding to the role of the State machinery as being bias in this regard.
Hence, the Court held that prima facie it appears that a case under Section 153 A IPC is made out against the petitioner.
Court refrained from going into the merits of the provision of Sections 500 ad 505 IPC, however, the said provisions read conjointly with Section 153A IPC would attract the provision of Section 155 (4) of CrPC.
No merit was found in the instant petition for exercising powers under Section 482 CrPC.[Patricia Mukhim v. State of Meghalaya, 2020 SCC OnLine Megh 167, decided on 10-11-2020]
Counsel for the petitioner: Advocate K. Paul.
For Respondents: N.D. Chullai, AAG with R. Colney, G.A for Respondent 1 and 2.
P.L. Khonsngi for Respondent 3-5.