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Extreme or harsh opinion is not a hate speech: Bombay High Court

While quashing an FIR, the Bombay High Court held that merely because the point of view of the Petitioner is extreme or harsh will not make it a hate speech as it is only expressing a different point of view through the Division Bench of Justices M.S. Karnik and S.S. Shinde in the case of Sunaina Holey v. State of Maharashtra (CRIMINAL WP-ASDB-LDVC-287 OF 2020)

FACTS OF THE CASE:

The Petitioner was charged under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 for her “Tweet” on the social media website on April 14, 2020.

To be sure, a member of the audience was shown in the petitioner’s video blaming the Prime Minister of India for the onset of the Covid-19 epidemic. The petitioner maintained that he was not the originator or producer of the aforementioned video and that no case had been filed against the person(s) who generated the aforementioned video. The Petitioner was dissatisfied with this attitude and shared the video to critique it.

According to learned Counsel Shri Chandrachud, appearing on behalf of the Petitioner, if the contents of the tweet, the FIR, the materials accompanying the FIR, and the material collected during the police investigation from April 2020 are considered in their entirety, it will be clear that the ingredients for constituting an offence under Section 153A IPC are not made out. The Petitioner, according to the learned advocate, is not the originator or producer of the aforementioned video, and no case has been filed against the person(s) who made the aforementioned video. He also stated that no charge has been filed against the individual in the video who blames India’s Prime Minister for the breakout of the Covid-19 epidemic. He claims that the Petitioner simply “reposted” a video on her Twitter page that had already been prepared by someone else.

JUDGEMENT:

Observing that the aforementioned video was already in circulation, the petitioner simply published it on her Twitter page, objecting to the individual in the video who blamed the Prime Minister for the virus’s spread. Thus, the Bench stated, The intention on the part of the Petitioner can by no stretch of imagination be said to cause disorder or incite people to violence which is sine qua non for the offence under section 153A of IPC.”

Even if the mentioned tweet was an extreme viewpoint voiced in retaliation, it still had to be considered from the angle of what a strong-minded, rational, or sensible person would do. Furthermore, the tweet’s content reveals that no community or religion was mentioned. The Bench ruled that, despite the fact that the police had enough time to investigate, nothing had been placed on record to demonstrate that the alleged tweet caused any disruption. The mere mention of Bandra Masjid in the Petitioner’s tweet would not trigger the provisions of Section 153A of the IPC because there was no disruption recorded immediately after the tweet was sent or even throughout the course of the investigation.

The Bench stated, “The Respondent’s approach towards the tweet is hypersensitive and over-cautious thereby trying to scent danger in the hostile point of view expressed by the Petitioner.” Thus, the FIR filed against the petitioner was quashed.

JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY REETI SHETTY

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