The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court recently stayed the arrest of retired IAS officer Surya Pratap Singh for tweeting a picture of dead bodies in the Ganges. The division bench of Justices Ramesh Sinha and Jaspreet Singh passed this order while hearing a petition filed by Surya Pratap Singh.
Singh prays for quashing of an FIR dated May 13, registered as case under Sections 153, 465 and 505 of IPC, Section 21 of the Uttar Pradesh Public Health and Epidemic Diseases Control Act, 2000, Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and Section 67 of the Information Technology as Amended Act, 2000 at Police Station-Kotwali, District Unnao.
The FIR has been lodged against the petitioner for a ‘tweet’, which he posted on the social medial website on May 13. The allegation levelled against the petitioner in the FIR is that photographs, which have been attached with the tweet, were of January 13, 2014 and had been deliberately used to spread hatred and resulted in spreading tension among different sections in the locality.
The counsel for the petitioner argued that the petitioner is a retired IAS officer. He has devoted his life to the service of society and has served the nation with full dedication. He has only raised the issues of public and social concerns through various social media and that during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic he has raised the grievances of citizens on social media like ‘Twitter’.
The counsel for the petitioner has submitted that the ingredients of Section 153 A are not made out even upon considering all materials on record. He argued that the allegations in the FIR, in their face value and in their entirety, do not prima facie constitute any offence or make out any case against the petitioner under Section 153A of IPC.
The petitioner being IAS has no intention to malign the image of the Government but only, by posting the contents and news items, wants to draw the attention of the Government towards the problems faced by the citizens during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The counsel next drew attention to Section 505 IPC, Section 21 of the Uttar Pradesh Public Health and Epidemic Diseases Control Act, 2020, Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and Section 67 of the Information Technology as amended Act, 2000 and argued that the petitioner is a responsible citizen and in his tweet had never intended to spread any rumour or panic among people but the objective of the tweet was that bodies of dead persons, be treated with respect and be cremated as per religious rituals.
He also argued that the National Human Rights Commission had taken cognizance of the burial of dead bodies and dead bodies floating in river Ganga and issued notice to the state government. Therefore, his submission is that the FIR is nothing but an attempt to throttle the voice of dissent and is violative of freedom of speech guaranteed by the Constitution to the citizen of India.
The counsel also pointed out that on coming to know the fact that the representative photograph, though was real, but could be misused, the petitioner immediately deleted the tweet in the interest of society.
Counsel for the Petitioner assured the court that being a responsible citizen, the petitioner would be careful in making such type of tweets on social media/platform in future and shall not misuse the same on any account.
The court said: “Having examined the submissions advanced by the Counsel for the parties and going through the record and the assurance given by Counsel for the Petitioner that he would be careful in future, prima facie, a case for interim relief is made out”, the Court said.
“Till the next date of listing or till submission of police report under section 173 (2) CrPC, if any, before the Competent Court, whichever is earlier, the arrest of the petitioner- Surya Pratap Singh in case under Sections 153, 465 and 505 of I.P.C., Section 21 of the Uttar Pradesh Public Health and Epidemic Diseases Control Act, 2000, Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and Section 67 of the Information Technology as Amended Act, 2000, Police Station- Kotwali, District Unnao shall remain stayed of course subject to the restraint that the petitioner shall fully cooperate with the investigation and shall appear as and when called upon to assist in the investigation”, the Court ordered.