The Bombay High Court on Wednesday quashed a First Information Report (FIR) registered against Sunaina Holey by the Mumbai Police cyber cell for her tweet allegedly promoting enmity between two communities.
The Court said that the tweet did not name any communities and it has to be judged from the perspective of a prudent man.
“Neither community nor religion is named. If test of strong or prudent person is applied said tweet cannot be said to have created hatred between communities or show the petitioner has men’s rea,” the Court said.
The Court said that while it appreciates the efforts of police in ensuring that the situation does not go out of hand, the contents of the FIR do not constitute an offence.
“After careful and in-depth consideration, we deem it fit to quash FIR,” the Court, therefore, ordered.
The order was passed by a Bench of Justices SS Shinde and MS Karnik on a plea by Holey to quash the FIR registered against her after she tweeted a video which allegedly had the possibility to promote enmity between religious communities.
Holey had approached the High Court with three petitions seeking to quash three FIRs filed against her.
Aside from the FIR quashed on Wednesday, two more FIRs have been registered against her in connection with her tweets against Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and State Cabinet Minister Aaditya Thackeray.
The Bench had earlier refused to grant her interim relief.
The Additional Public Prosecutor JP Yagnik, had however submitted that she would not be arrested at least for two weeks if she co-operated with the probe and presented herself before the police, which Holey accepted.
The Court also recorded Holey’s statement given through her counsel advocate (Dr.) Abhinav Chandrachud that she would refrain from tweeting about the pending petitions till the matter is disposed of.
Holey’s primary contention was that fundamental right to speech of a citizen could not curtailed and that she was merely expressing her opinion and criticising the policy of the government.
Extending this argument, the Bench expressed hope that individuals occupying important positions of power must learn to tolerate criticism.
While the Court primarily agreed with the view, the State strongly opposed such a prayer for quashing of FIR claiming the investigation was not complete and it was important to know the intention behind such tweets.
The Court had, therefore, sought their assistance on certain legal issues. Yagnik was asked to assist the Court on whether or not it can quash an FIR when the investigation was ongoing.
Chandrachud was directed to make submissions on whether the Court should quash the FIR based on the contents of the FIR or whether it should wait till the investigation is over before exercising its jurisdiction.
The matter was then heard at length before the Court reserved its order on January 7.