The Allahabad High Court, while dismissing an application, said that internet and social media has become an important tool through which individuals can exercise their right to freedom of expression but the right to freedom of expression comes with its own set of special responsibilities and duties. It does not confer upon the citizens the right to speak without responsibility nor does it grant unfettered licence for every possible use of language.
A Single Bench of Justice Manju Rani Chauhan passed this order while hearing an application under section 482 filed by Dr Shiv Sidharth @ Shiv Kumar Bharti.
The application U/s 482 CrPC has been filed with a prayer to quash the charge sheet dated 31.10.2021 in Criminal Case under Sections 295A IPC and Section 67 of IT Act, 2008, Police Station-Badlapur, District-Jaunpur, pending before the court of Additional Civil Judge (S.D), Jaunpur.
The facts of the case are that an FIR has been lodged by the complainant; Akhand Pratap Singh against the applicant on 08.10.2021 at about 7:41 hrs, under Sections 67 of I.T Act, which came to be registered as Case with the allegations that an objectionable message has been posted on social media (Whatsapp) regarding the remarks on “Maa Durga”, which has hurt the sentiments of the people of the Hindu community and there is a resistance shown by the aforesaid community.
After investigation, the Investigating Officer has submitted the charge sheet under Section 295A IPC and Section 67 of I.T Act, 2008, pursuant to which the applicant has been summoned by the concerned court vide order dated 31.10.2021.
Counsel for the applicant submitted that the applicant is innocent and has been falsely implicated in the case. The applicant had received the message, but the same was not sent/forwarded by him.
He further submitted that the applicant has neither sent any such message nor he could do anything like this and has been falsely implicated by the opposite party no 2, who belongs to Hindu Vahini.
He also submitted that no ingredient of Section 67 of I.T Act are existing under the facts and circumstances of the case, therefore, no offence under the relevant sections is made out against the applicant but the court below has utterly failed to consider the above as no prima facie case is made out against the applicant.
He said that as there are no ingredients to substantiate the said fact as alleged in the FIR, therefore, the proceedings initiated amounts to nothing but abuse of process of law and the same is liable to be quashed.
Per Contra, AGA for the State submitted that after recording the statements of the informant/opposite party no 2 as well as other independent witnesses, namely, Shashi Anand Singh, Sudhir Singh, Vaibhav Singh, Kuldeep Singha and Sarvesh Yadav, the Investigating Officer has submitted the charge sheet against the applicant under Section 295A IPC and Section 67 of I.T Act, 2008.
He further submitted that during investigation, two mobile phones have been recovered from the applicants and on examination of whats-app messages of the aforesaid, the allegations as leveled against the applicant regarding the messages are found to be true as the same finds place in the whats-app chat of the applicant.
He also submitted that on perusal of the first information report as well as the statements as given by the witnesses, cognizable offence is made out against the applicant.
As regards the submission made by the counsel for the applicant regarding the applicant has only received the message, AGA submitted that he admits that the aforesaid message has been received by him and in the whats-app chat, he admits that he may be excused and forgiven for the fault, which has been committed by him, which means that he admits that he has received the message and sent the same to other groups.
From the aforesaid, the offence under Section 67 of IT Act is made out as such messages are found in the whatsapp chat of the mobile recovered from the applicant. Therefore, the application is liable to be dismissed.
The Court observed that,
On close reading of aforesaid Section 295A IPC, it indicates that Section 295A does not stipulate everything to be penalized and any and every act would tantamount to insult or attempt to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of class of citizens. It penalizes only those acts of insults to or those varieties of attempts to insult the religion or religious belief of a class of citizens which are perpetrated with the deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of that class of citizens. Insults to religion offered unwittingly or carelessly or without any deliberate or malicious intention to outrage the religious feelings of that class do not come within the Section.
Having examined the matter in its entirety, here it would be apposite to mention that the Court is of the view that it is beyond the shadow of doubt that social media is a global platform for exchange of thoughts, opinions and ideas. The internet and social media has become an important tool through which individuals can exercise their right to freedom of expression but the right to freedom of expression comes with its own set of special responsibilities and duties. It does not confer upon the citizens the right to speak without responsibility nor does it grant unfettered licence for every possible use of language.
“From the records, the Court finds that the applicant admits that the aforesaid message has been received by him and in the whatsapp chat, he admits that he may be excused and forgiven for the fault, which has been committed by him, which means that he admits that he has received the message and sent the same to other groups.
Upon perusal of F.I.R and the allegations made therein as well as material against the applicant, as per prosecution case, the cognizable offence against the applicant is made out. Perusal of the charge sheet submitted against the applicant shows that after investigation, the investigating officer has submitted a charge sheet after collecting cogent and reliable evidence against the applicant and thereafter the Magistrate has rightly summoned the applicant to face trial”, the Court further observed while dismissing the application.