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'Portrayal Of Conflicts Between Communities Not An Offence' : Journalist Patricia Mukhim Seeks Quashing Of FIR; SC Reserves Judgment

Srishti Ojha
16 Feb 2021 1:45 PM GMT
Portrayal Of Conflicts Between Communities Not An Offence : Journalist Patricia Mukhim Seeks Quashing Of FIR; SC Reserves Judgment
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The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its judgement in the petition filed by Shillong Times Editor Patricia Mukhim challenging the refusal of the Meghalaya High Court to quash criminal proceedings against her over a Facebook post on violence against non-tribal people in State. A division Bench of Justice Nageswara Rao and Justice Ravindra Bhat heard arguments advanced by...

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its judgement in the petition filed by Shillong Times Editor Patricia Mukhim challenging the refusal of the Meghalaya High Court to quash criminal proceedings against her over a Facebook post on violence against non-tribal people in State.

A division Bench of Justice Nageswara Rao and Justice Ravindra Bhat heard arguments advanced by the Petitioner and the state.

During the hearing today, Advocate Vrinda Grover appearing on behalf of the petitioner narrated the background of the case. A complaint was made against the post by Dorbor Shnong, a community in the East Khasi Hills, on 6th July and FIR was filed on 7th July. However, Grover alleged that the contents of her post were edited and words were replaced placed before the police. One extract was selectively placed before the police instead of the entire post.

With regards to the Mukhim's facebook post, Grover submitted that the intention of the post was not to create any disharmony, but was in fact precisely the opposite. The post did not call upon two communities or groups, but called upon the Chief Minister and Director General of Police instead, while condemning the atrocities committed on the minority.

"The Facebook post is only making a comment that non tribal boys have been targeted violently and State must ensure that it doesn't happen. Why do i call on the Dorbor Shnong? Because communities have a social influence and i wanted that the black sheep of the community are called out. " Mukhim's Counsel stated.

According to Grover, the portrayal of skirmish between two groups is not prohibited and is permitted. Therefore if there is any a controversy between two groups, any journalist would write about that.

Senior Advocate Vrinda Grover relied on several judgements of the Supreme Court including the case of Manzoor Sayyed Khan vs State of Maharashtra, and how the law related to Section 153 A was interpreted by the Court. She stated that in the case of Ramesh vs Union of India, that dealt with the issue around TV serial Tamas, it was held that TV serial Tamas did not depict communal violence and therefore would not fall under section 153 A. Even in the recent judgement in the case of Amish Devgan judgement the threshold and bar as to what speech would not be protected was clarified.

Relying on these judgements, petitioner's Counsel submitted that what needs to be seen is what was said in the post and what was the intent and purpose of purpose of saying that. She clarified that in the impugned post, attention of the Stature Authorities including the CM and DGP was drawn by the petitioner to ensure that violence and attacks on community came to an end. The petitioner was fulfilling her responsibility as a Senior Journalist and as a responsible citizen

"I'm exhorting everyone to rise beyond their caste and communities. I am not talking about any 2 communities here! I am fulfilling my responsibility as a senior journalist and as a responsible citizen." Vrinda Grover stated

Advocate Avijit Mani Tripathi appearing on behalf of the State submitted that the fact that the petitioner is a well know journalist is relevant as in that case the possible and probable effect of her actions would be high. With respect to the incident that Mukhim's post had discussed, Mr Tripathi added that action was being taken and everything was being done. FIRs were being filed.

Advocate Tripathi submitted that it id expected of a journalist of that repute to ascertain the facts before writing something, that too when she has so many followers. A communal colour was given to an incident which was a small scuffle between two guys, which the police was already investigating.

"Mr Tripathi please don't go all over the place. Just tell us why ingredients of 153A are not made out. We know we have limited jurisdiction in the case " – the Bench stated.

The Bench observed that for quashing of FIR, the test adopted by the Court is to take allegations of complaint as they are without seeing defence of the accused. If the allegations don't make an offence under the section then the FIR is quashed.

"We know we cannot interfere in matters of FIR but you should atleast make a case, and not just read out judgement. We understand your point that she has to be more responsible, but you need to make a case as to how Section 153A would apply" the Bench stated.

A three- Judge Bench of the Apex Court comprising of Justices L. Nageswara Rao, Indu Malhotra and Vineet Saran had on January 13,2021 issued notice in on a Special Leave Petition filed by Patricia Mukhim, Editor of Shillong Times, against the judgement of Meghalaya High Court which had refused to quash criminal proceedings under Sections 153A, 500 and 505(c) of the Indian Penal Code against her.

The plea had contended that the Meghalaya High Court had passed an erroneous order wherein it had ignored settled precedent and declined to exercise powers vested in in under Section 482 Cr.PC.. The High Court allegedly allowed "victimisation, persecution, abuse of process of law and also stifling of the fundamental rights of the Petitioner under Articles 19(1)(a) and 21 of the Constitution of India by dismissing Mukhim's challenge to the FIR.

According to the Petitioner, she is facing a persecution for speaking the truth and seeking enforcement of rule of law against perpetrators of hate crime, in exercise of her fundamental right as guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. A plain reading of the her Facebook post makes it clear that the intent and purpose of this post is to appeal for impartial enforcement of rule of law; equal treatment before the law of all citizens; condemnation of targeted violence against members of a minority group; an end to impunity for violence and thereby ensure peace and harmony between communities and groups.


The plea was filed through Advocate Prasanna S. and drafted by Advocate Soutik Banerjee.

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