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Supreme Court pulls up Madras High Court for quashing criminal proceedings against YouTuber Maridhas Malaichamy in hurry

The Supreme Court has reprimanded the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court for quashing criminal proceedings registered against a YouTuber in a hurry, without giving adequate time for the investigating agency to probe the charges.

The Bench of Justice M.R. Shah and Justice C.T. Ravikumar, while setting aside the High Court order, noted that the Madurai Bench should not have quashed the FIR registered against YouTuber Maridhas Malaichamy, without giving adequate time to the probe agency to investigate.

The Supreme Court noted that the FIR in the case was lodged on December 9, 2021, while the quashing petition was filed on the very next date and within a period of four days on December 14, 2021, the Single-Judge Bench of Justice G.R. Swaminathan passed an order, quashing the criminal proceedings against the accused.

Stating that the settled position of law conferred the right upon the Investigating Agency to conduct the probe in a reasonable time, the Apex Court noted that the same was not done in this case.

As per the top court of the country, had the Investigation Agency found that the allegations in the FIR did not disclose any cognisable offence at all or that the complaint was barred by any law, the High Court could have quashed the proceedings then, but it did not give time for the probe.

The top court of the country had passed this judgment on January 9, but it was uploaded on the website of the Apex Court yesterday.

Justice Swaminathan had observed in his verdict that YouTubers had the same rights as accorded to journalists and media under the Constitution, and that they also had the freedom of speech and expression.

The Single-Judge Madurai Bench further noted that Maridhas had ‘probably’ realised his mistake and had deleted the contoversial tweet. It said Maridhas’ post could be classified as ‘naive writing’.

The State of Tamil Nadu challenged this order in the Supreme Court.

Appearing for the State of Tamil Nadu, Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde submitted in the Supreme Court that while quashing the criminal proceedings under Section 482 Cr.P.C., the High Court had conducted a mini-trial, which was wholly impermissible.

He said Maridhas was a political commentator on social media platforms like Twitter and YouTube. On December 9, 2021, a day after the unfortunate demise of first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat and other Army officers, he made an offending tweet. 

Maridhas had claimed in the tweet that the Tamil Nadu government gave freedom to ‘create’ a group that could do any level of ‘treason’ against the country. He also claimed that it is possible for ‘any kind of plot’ to be hatched here. The tweet was deleted later. In another tweet, Maridhas had alleged that cadres and sympathisers of DMK made fun of the passing away of General Rawat, adding that DMK was the ‘first choice’ for ‘separatist forces’.

He had also asked on Twitter whether Tamil Nadu was “turning into another Kashmir under the DMK Rule”.

Hegde said the Madurai police had registered an FIR against Maridhas for making certain comments celebrating the death of former CDS Rawat in the Coonoor chopper crash.

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