Bombay High Court
Bombay High Court

Mumbai: A Bombay High Court bench of Justices Sambhaji Shinde and Makarand Karnik on Wednesday quashed an FIR registered against Sunaina Holey, a Navi Mumbai resident, for posting on Twitter a tweet that allegedly tried to promote communal enmity between two religious group.

Holey, who faces three FIR’s, was booked by Azad Maidan police for tweeting over an incident where hundreds of people had gathered outside Bandra Terminus during the lockdown last year. Criticising the crowd, Holey had tweeted against a man who had reportedly claimed that "Covid19 has been brought by Prime Minister Narendra Modi," confirmed Holey's counsel Abhinav Chandrachud.

According to Chandrachud, the bench is yet to hear arguments in the other two FIRs, which are registered against Holey for posting an objectionable tweet against chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, and his son and minister Aaditya Thackeray. The other FIR is for her tweet wherein she had abused a Twitter user, who criticized her for being an outsider and criticizing political leaders of Maharashtra.

The prosecution alleged that Holey by tweeting against the man had made an attempt to disturb communal harmony. However, the judges refused to accept the contention, saying, "Neither community nor religion is named (in the tweet). If test of strong or prudent person is applied, said tweet cannot be said to have created hatred between community or show the petitioner has mens rea (the intention or knowledge of wrongdoing that constitutes part of a crime, as opposed to the action or conduct of the accused)."

The bench further said that after going through facts of the FIR lodged by Azad Maidan police station, "We are of the view that the FIR deserved to be quashed." Chandrachud had argued that his client was merely exercising her right to free speech and expression.

"The right to express one’s views is a protected and cherished right in our democracy. Merely because Holey's point of view is extreme or harsh will not make it a hate speech as it is only expressing a diferent point of view," the judges held.

"The tweet in question, if judged on the basis of what a reasonable and strong minded person will think of it, leaves little manner of doubt in our mind that the same is only expressing a hostile point of view," the judges added.

The bench further noted that the FIR was lodged against Holey for tweeting over an incident of Bandra, last year when hundreds of people had gathered outside Bandra Terminus. Her tweet was mainly against a man, who accused PM Modi for spreading the dreaded virus and this man was standing just outside the Bandra Masjid.

However, on noting the tweet, the bench said that Holey had no intention to cause any kind of public disturbance which is mandatory for amounting to an offence under section 153 A (causing communal disharmony) of the IPC.

"It is also not the case of the state authorities that there was disturbance of law and order or of public order or peace and tranquillity as a result of tweet posted by Holey. Though the police machinery had ample opportunity to investigate, nothing has been placed on record to indicate that the tweet led to any such disturbance," the judges added.

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