Vigilantism cannot be encouraged, observed Justice Ashok Menon of Kerala High Court on Friday while reserving orders on the anticipatory bail applications filed by three women who are accused of assaulting a YouTuber for posting a vulgar video.
"Not proper to take law into your hands even if the other person has said the nastiest of things", Justice Menon told the lawyer of the applicants.
The court directed that the three accused - famous dubbing artist Bhagyalakshmi and feminist activists Diya Sana and Sreelakshmi Arackal - should not be arrested till October 30, when the case is next posted for the pronouncement of orders.
The lawyer for the accused, Advocate K P Jayachandran, submitted that the non-bailable provisions mentioned in the FIR - Section 452 (house-trespass with preparation for assault) and 392(robbery) of the Indian Penal Code - are not attracted to the case.
He submitted that the accused women went to the lodge room of YouTuber Vijay P. Nair at his invitation for a negotiation talk regarding the objectionable video. So, there was no occasion to invoke the offence of trespass with preparation for assault. As regards the allegation of theft of laptop and mobile phone belonging to Vijay Nair, the lawyer submitted that the women took them from his possession to hand them over to the police. Therefore, there was no dishonest intention to attract Section 392.
The lawyer also mentioned that following the incident, the Kerala government decided to bring in an ordinance to deal with cyberattacks against women.
Mr. Suman Chakravarthy, the public prosecutor, submitted that the accused women had posted incriminating videos of their assault on the complainant. Granting them bail will send a wrong message to the society, submitted the prosecutor. He demanded that the accused should surrender and cooperate with the criminal investigation.
"Probably they did not have faith in the police and decided to do it themselves. That also needs to be taken into consideration", Justice Menon told the Public Prosecutor.
Justice Menon also told the applicant's lawyer in a lighter vein:"If you are bold enough to go and beat up a man, why are you afraid of facing the consequences? Why are you shy about appearing before the police or going to jail?"
The bench observed that there was no "dishonest intention" behind the taking away of the laptop and the mobile phone of the complainant as the accused handed them over to the police the same day.
The bench also noted that the custodial interrogation of the accused may not be necessary and no recovery is also sought to be made from them. There was also doubt regarding the application of Section 452 IPC to the case, the judge added.
"But vigilantism cannot be encouraged", Justice Menon said while reserving orders for October 30.
Earlier, the Additional Sessions Court, Thiruvananthapuram, had dismissed their anticipatory bail application, after observing that granting bail "would give a wrong message to the society that anybody can resort to such vandalism so as to oppress their opponents"
"A civilized society is expected to obey the rule of law of the country so as to maintain peace, law and order and any attack to the said fabric is actionable and cannot be viewed lightly. No one can take law into their hands on the strength of man power or muscle power", observed the court below.
The case relates to the attack made by the three accused against one Vijay P Nair, a YouTuber with a considerable number of followers, who is known for making derogatory and obscene videos about women.
The attack happened on September 26, when the accused barged into the office of Vijay Nair and slapped him, abused him, and poured black oil on his face for making vulgar comments against one of them in particular and 'feminists' in general. They also live-streamed the visuals of the attack via Facebook Live. The women said that they were constrained to resort to the drastic step as the complaint filed before police against Vijay Nair's video failed to elicit any response.
The videos of the attack became viral sparking off intense debates in social media over the correctness of their response.
After the attack, the women were booked by Thampanoor police on a complaint by Vijay Nair under IPC Sections 452 (House-trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint), 294 B (sings, recites or utters any obscene song, ballad or words, in or near any public place), 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 506 (criminal intimidation), 392 (punishment for robbery), 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention of the Indian Penal code).
Vijay Nair was also arrested in another FIR for offences under the Information Technology Act, 2000, for posting obscene videos and is under custody at present.