By way of interim relief to journalist and BJP leader S. Ve. Shekhar, the Supreme Court vacation bench of Justices A. M. Khanwilkar and Navin Sinha, on Tuesday, directed that no coercive action may be initiated against him in connection with the FIR registered under sections 504, 505(1)(c) and 509 of the IPC and section 4 of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Women Harassment Act for allegedly sharing a derogatory Facebook post on women journalists.
The bench issued notice to the state of Tamil Nadu on his SLP, arising out of the May 10 judgment of the Madras High Court refusing his anticipatory bail plea, holding that sharing or forwarding of a message in social media equals the acceptance and endorsement of the view expressed therein. The matter will now be heard on June 1.
“My house has been vandalised...the next day, the FIR was filed...Your Lordships may allow me to be protected in the interim...else, this petition will become infructuous...”, prayed the Advocate appearing on behalf of the petitioner on Tuesday.
In the impugned judgment, the High Court had observed, “No one has any right to abuse women, and if done, it is a violation of rights. When calling a person with community name itself is a crime, using such unparliamentarily words is more heinous...Words are more powerful than acts...When a celebrity-like person forwards such messages, the common public will believe that these types of things are going on...”
The bench had also noted, “there cannot be any harsher words than this which portraits that all working women coming up in life are sacrificing their chastity. The future of such working women is at stake. Instead of wiping out the wrong impression about working women among the public these words create fear and anxiety among people who want to pursue a career. After seeing these forwarded words from a person who is popular and has lot of connections with media people for long, the public will look at every working woman with a suspicious eye...”
The present petitioner had contended before the High Court that he had received the concerned message from a friend and, under the bona fide impression, the message being from one who usually forwarded “good and patriotic messages”, he had forwarded the same without reading the contents and knowing its nature. Subsequently, he had deleted the post as it was not at all acceptable to him and condemnable in nature.