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Bombay HC denies protection to Twitter trolls, says freedom of speech not absolute

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Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has said that freedom of speech and expression given under Article 19 of the Constitution is not an absolute right while denying interim protection from arrest to a woman for allegedly making objectionable remarks on Twitter against Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and his son Aditya Thackeray.

A bench of Justices S.S. Shinde and M.S. Karnik, however, accepted the state government’s oral assurance that the woman Sunaina Holle would not be arrested for at least the next two weeks.

The state said that Sunaina Holle would get such relief (from arrest) only if she aided the police in the investigation at Azad Maidan, Tulinj police stations Mumbai and Palghar respectively for questioning. On the other hand, the bench allowed Holle to approach the court at any time during this period if the police decide to take any drastic action against her or if any of her rights are violated. Holle, through her lawyer Abhinav Chandrachud, appealed to the Bombay High Court, demanding that all charges against her be quashed.

Uddhav Thackeray

As an interim relief, she demanded that the court provide her with protection from arrest until the hearing of her case is over and the court decided to quash the FIR against her. Three FIRs lodged against Holle, one at BKC Cybercrime Police Station, another at Azad Maidan Police Station, and third at Tullinj Police Station in Palghar.

The FIR was registered following complaints made by several people, including Shiv Sena youth wing leader Rohan Chauhan.

According to the complaints, 38-year-old Holle made objectionable and derogatory remarks against the CM and his son on Twitter. She was arrested in August this year and released on bail in a case related to the FIR lodged against her by the BKC Cyber Crime Police. On the remaining two FIRs, she was given notice under Section 41A (1) of the CrPC, asking her to come to the respective police stations for investigation.

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Holle did not respond to the notice.

On September 11, government lawyer YP Yagnik told the court that Holey had not responded to the notice. However, Advocate Chandrachud said that her client was apprehensive that she would be arrested if she met the police. Therefore, she sought interim relief. However, the bench said that interim protection from arrest can be granted only in odd case. But it was noted that Section 41 (a) provides that a person should not be arrested as long as he is cooperating in police investigation. If anyone is required to be arrested, the police should give prior notice for such arrest.

-India Legal Bureau

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