-Report by Tannu Dahiya
Bombay High Court while hearing the petition on 27th February 2023 in the case Sandeep Arjun Kudale v. State of Maharashtra directed the police to carefully look into the matter and must find whether an offence has been made or not before arresting a person.
The facts of the case are as follows:
In Writ petition no. 21880 of 2022
The complainant is a resident of Kothrud, Pune. One fine day while browsing on Twitter, he came across a video which was uploaded by the petitioner on his account wherein he was seen standing in front of the bungalow of Mr Chandrakant Patil, Minister of Higher and Technical Education and Cabinet Minister, Maharashtra State and Palak Mantri (Guardian Minister), making objectionable remark against him which has created disharmony in the communities and has provoked the sentiments of people belonging to Dr. Ambedkar and Phule’s community.Hence he registered an FIR against him alleging offences punishable under Sections 153A(1)(a) and 153A(1)(b) of the IPC, on 11.12.2022.
In the 2nd writ petition no. 21886 of 2022
Here the complainant is a resident of Wajre, Pune. He is an active social worker of the BJP. He mentioned that Mr. Chandrakant Patil mentioned about Dr. Ambedkar and Mahatma Phule in his speech which was misinterpreted by the petitioner.It is alleged that the petitioner by uploading the video had created an negative opinion of the said Minister and had also promoted enmity among the different groups in society.
The petitioner seeks to quash both the FIR against him.
Mr Desai learned counsel for the petitioner submits that no offence as alleged has been disclosed against the petitioner in both the FIRs. The FIR was made with a political motive and the sole intention was to harass the petitioner who is also a member of the Congress Party. He was also arrested and kept in custody for two days without any justification. He was falsely framed in this case as he questioned one of the sitting cabinet members of the state. By lodging, this complaint his fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression is clearly violated. Hence the learned counsel pleads that both FIRs should be quashed and set aside. He also relied on the judgements made in Manzar Sayeed Khan v. State of Maharashtra & AnrBalwant Singh & Anr. v. State of Punjab, and Bilal Ahmed Kaloo v. State of Andhra Pradesh.
Dr Saraf learned Advocate General opposed the petition claiming that the sections have been rightly invoked by the police. He submits that the video posted by the petitioner has created an atmosphere of enmity between different groups in society. He also argues that the Police were correct in every manner to register the FIRs as it is their duty to maintain public peace and tranquillity.
Since the issues involved in both the writ petitions are the same, they are heard together. The court made observations regarding different cases. In the Manzar Sayeed Khan case the Apex court held that it was not only the words of the book which should be for provoking the charge. It is the language of the book which decides its intention.
In Balwant singh case, held that the appellants have committed an offence under Sections 124A and 153A of the IPC, for raising anti-national slogans after Indra Gandhi’s assassination. In this case, the Court had accepted that mens rea is an essential ingredient of the offence
under Section 153-A and the spoken or written words must have an intention of creating public disorder for disturbance of law and order or affect public “tranquillity”, in order to commit an offence. Having considered the provision of law, the court held that no offence has been committed in this case and the FIRs are quashed and set aside.
The reasons stated for this are that the petitioner in the video can be seen just commenting on the speech of the Minister which is clearly his opinion and he has the right to freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed under the Constitution. There is clearly no intention of the petitioner to create public disharmony and disturb the public “tranquillity”. The court asked the police to apply their mind before arresting a person as arrest makes a serious impact on the person as well his family’s reputation and mental health.
The law cannot be used as a tool to harass people and stop them from expressing their views and raising their voices which the Constitution guarantees them. Hence the petitions are disposed of accordingly. The court also directed the state Government to pay Rs25000/- for the unjustified arrest made within four weeks of the order.
Citation: C. W. P no. 21880 of 2022
C. W. P no. 21886 of 2022