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Breaking: Bombay High Court Quashes FIR Against Sunaina Holey, Court Says "Her Tweets Cannot Be Said To Have Created Hatred Between Communities "

Sharmeen Hakim
5 May 2021 8:33 AM GMT
Sunaina Holey Bombay High Court case
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Bombay High Court has quashed the FIR against Navi Mumbai resident Sunaina Holey, accused of promoting enmity between different groups on the grounds of religion.

Holey was booked after her tweet about the sea of migrant workers gathered outside Bandra Station, in Mumbai, at the peak of the nationwide lockdown on April 14, 2020.

A division bench of Justices SS Shinde and MS Karnik had reserved the petition for orders on January 7.

"It is revealed from the contents of the complaint that no community or religion was named & if a test of a strong and prudent person is applied, the tweet cannot said to have created hatred and it is difficult to arrive at a conclusion that petitioner has mens rea."

We do appreciate efforts by the police of keeping vigil on social media platforms in such a situation, however, the action of registering this FIR does not constitute any offence and therefore this is a fit case to quash FIR."

The bench refused to stay the order on the State's request.

Holey was booked after her tweet about the sea of migrant workers gathered outside Bandra Station, in Mumbai, at the peak of the nationwide lockdown on April 14, 2020.

An FIR on April 15, 2020, at the Azad Maidan Police Station was registered for the offence under section 153A. [Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony] of the IPC.

Holey filed a criminal writ petition under Section 482 of CrPC, and claimed she merely tweeted a line from the video she posted. She alleged the FIR against her was politically motivated, especially since the tweet is critical of the State Government.

Advocate Abhinav Chandrachud, representing Holey, cited the case of State of Haryana and others vs Bhajan Lal & Others to says that even if the allegations against her are taken in their entirety, a prima facie case was not made out.

Taking the defence of genuine criticism, he argued that Holey did not post anything with the intent to cause disorder or incite people, which is a sine-qua-non for attracting the provision of section 153A.

He cited the judgment of the Supreme Court in Manzar Sayeed Khan Vs State of Maharashtra & Anr. He submitted that the test laid down by the Supreme Court in Section 153A cases is that the intention to cause disorder must be made out by the words used by the accused and the circumstances in which the accused made the statements.

Chandrachud also cited a judgment of the Bombay High Court in Joseph Bain D'Souza And Another vs State Of Maharashtra And Others, in which the court was considering fiery and incendiary editorials written in the "Saamna" newspaper, the mouthpiece of the Shiv Sena.

"I ask the court to compare what the Saamna had written with what the petitioner had said. The petitioners' words, by comparison, were innocuous," he had argued.

During one of the hearings, the court asked if there was a "chain reaction" to Holey's tweets to which the State said Holey was a "professional tweeter" and "social media influencer" and was involved in "spreading misinformation" in "volatile situation."

Moreover, "She had tweeted something derogatory previously, and then the police had written to Twitter to take it down. So, it is not that the police are vindictive," he said.

Responding to the court's inquiry on whether the circumstances aggravated because of Holey's tweet, Mohite said the tweet was re-tweeted by her followers. Mohite, however, submitted that Holey's tweet was not responsible for migrant workers gathering at Bandra last April.T

Tweets against Thackareys

Holey has is booked under Sections 153A, 505(2) and 500 of IPC in three different FIRs relating to three tweets posted by her. She was arrested in August last year and then released on bail in the case registered against her by the police at Bandra Kurla Complex cyber crime department.

Appearances

Dr. Abhinav Chandrachud a/w advocates Chandansingh Shekhawat, Yashowardhan Deshmukh, Sailee Dhayalkar instructed by Farishta Menon for Holey

Senior Advocate M.S. Mohite, along with advocate Vivek Babar and APP Jayesh Yagnik for the State.

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