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Allahabad HC quashes criminal proceedings against man over tweet on maid

A Single Bench of Justice J. J Munir passed this order while hearing an application u/s 482 filed by Tarun Jain.

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The Allahabad High Court recently quashed criminal proceedings against a man who had tweeted that maids were entering his society without sanitizing their hands etc while noting that a vigilant tweet by the resident of society about the breach of the Covid-19 protocol can’t constitute a violation of prohibitory orders passed under Section 144 of CrPC.

A Single Bench of Justice J. J Munir passed this order while hearing an application u/s 482 filed by Tarun Jain.

The Application under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 sought to quash proceedings of Case under Sections 182, 188 and 271 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, pending before the court of the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate-II, Gautam Buddh Nagar.

The application was initially heard on September 21, 2020, and an interim stay of further proceedings before the Magistrate was granted pending admission, for reasons indicated in the order of that date. Later on, the application came up on January 19, 2021, when, by a detailed order, it was admitted to hearing and notice was issued not only to the State, but also the second opposite party, requiring both these opposite parties to file a counter affidavit. The time-bound interim order granted on September 21, 2020 was directed to remain in operation until further orders.

The complainant-respondents, who is a Sub-Inspector of Police, and to whom notice was directed to issue, has not been served, with the Office not putting in a report either way. It is a little hard to believe that a Sub-Inspector of Police would not be served through the criminal process that is routed through the Police. In any case, the presence of the second opposite party is not much required in his case, instituted on a Police Report, where the State is before us.

The case against the applicant is that the second opposite party lodged a First Information Report with Police Station – Sector 49, NOIDA, District – Gautam Buddh Nagar to the effect that the informant, who is a Sub-Inspector and was on duty on March 25, 2020. A tweet by the applicant came to his notice, which said that maid servants and courier boys were entering the society, where the applicant resides, without sanitizing themselves and the maintenance staff have not provided for sanitizers to enable them to do so.

The FIR further went on to say that orders under Section 144 of the Code had been promulgated in the district, looking to the Corona Virus (CoViD-19) pandemic, and the applicant, by his tweet aforesaid, had spread a rumour, violating the prohibitory order. On this short information, an FIR was registered against the applicant, giving rise to Case under Sections 182, 188 and 271 of the Penal Code, Police Station – Sector 49, NOIDA, District – Gautam Buddh Nagar. The police, after investigation, have submitted the impugned Charge-sheet dated June 02, 2020, saying that offences punishable under Sections 182, 188 and 271 of the Penal Code are disclosed against the applicant from the investigation made, the statement of the complainant, statement of the witnesses, statement of the accused and on an inspection of the place of occurrence. The Magistrate has taken cognizance of the offence, by means of an order dated July 07, 2020 and issued summons to the applicant to stand his trial for the offences alleged.

It was argued by Counsel for the applicant that though a notice under Section 41A of the Code was issued to the applicant, asking him to attend the police station on March 25, 2020, but when he went there, the Police did not record his statement or ask him any questions; rather they released him on furnishing a personal bond.

It was also argued that no prima facie case is made out against the applicant, inasmuch as his act in saying that maid servants were entering the society without sanitizing their hands etc. and that there was no provision made by the society’s maintenance staff for the ready availability of sanitizers, the intention of the applicant ex-facie was to secure the health of residents of Plot No. 7, Golf City, Sector 75, NOIDA, the society where the applicant resides in Flat No. 604, Tower A3. The purpose of the tweet was not to create any alarm at large in the town or the district, but to caution the other residents of the society against the impending risk that he had observed.

The Court has perused the statements recorded by the Police under Section 161 of the Code, which say no more than this, that the applicant’s tweet was found to be incorrect for a fact, on a visit made to the premises of the society, where sanitizers were available and those entering the society were being required to sanitize.

The Court noted that, there is an added stand in the almost cyclo-styled statements of various witnesses, all policemen, that the aforesaid tweet, carrying an incorrect information, amounts to spreading a rumour that violates prohibitory orders promulgated in the district under Section 144 of the Code.

Ex-facie, the Court failed to understand as to how a vigilant tweet by the resident of a society about breach of the CoViD-19 protocol in relation to outsiders entering the premises could constitute a violation of prohibitory orders.

The Court held that the investigation was a serious exercise, if the Police had recorded statements of some residents of the society, and those in charge of the maintenance there, or the security guards at the entrance gates. Whatever of the Case Diary has been annexed by the applicant shows statements of the first informant and other policemen recorded, carrying a parroted version of facts that ex-facie do not inspire any confidence.

“A perusal of Section 182 of the Penal Code shows that a person to be liable has to be credited with the act of giving any information to a public servant, which he knows or believes to be false. Here, the applicant never gave any information to the Police or any public servant. What the applicant did was a tweet that was perhaps a matter of concern for other residents of the society, rather than a busy body like the Sub-Inspector, who lodged a FIR in the case”, the Court observed.

The Court found that the impugned prosecution not only fails to disclose a cognizable case against the applicant, but is one that is a reckless abuse of the process of Court. The Commissioner of Police, Gautam Buddh Nagar ought to bear caution and ensure that frivolous prosecutions, like the one in question, are not launched against respectable citizens. It is the duty of the Court under Section 482 of the Code to prevent abuse of process of Court. The Court would expect that the Trial Court would also not permit frivolous cases to survive, burdening its already overloaded docket on one hand, and on the other, resulting in utterly uncalled for harassment of a respectable citizen. Cases of this kind ought to be scuttled, whenever and wherever it comes to the notice of a competent court, whether it be at the stage of discharge or in a criminal revision or through an application, asking the proceedings to be quashed.

Also Read: Supreme Court upholds NGT order banning sale of firecrackers in cities with poor air quality

“In the considered opinion of the Court, the impugned proceedings cannot be permitted to continue and deserve to be quashed.

In the result, the application succeeds and stands allowed. The proceedings of Case under Sections 182, 188 and 271 of the Penal Code, Police Station – Sector 49, NOIDA, District – Gautam Buddh Nagar, pending before the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate-II, Gautam Buddh Nagar are hereby quashed.

Let an entry be made in the General Diary of Police Station – Sector 49, NOIDA, District – Gautam Buddh Nagar to the effect that proceedings of Case  under Sections 182, 188 and 271 of the Penal Code stand quashed under orders of the Court. The aforesaid part of the order shall be caused to be carried out in the records of the police station concerned by the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate-II, Gautam Buddh Nagar within a week of receipt of a copy of the order”, the Court ordered.

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