Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has pulled up the police for registering FIRs under Section 3 of the Official Secrets Act (OSA) against those videographing “discussions” or taking photographs inside police stations and directed the authorities to take appropriate steps to ensure the law is not misused.
The division bench of Justice Revati Mohite Dere and Justice PK Chavan, while quashing the FIR and chargesheet against one Rohan Kale, directed the government to pay Rs25,000 to the petitioner. The bench has clarified that the government is at liberty to recover this amount from the salary of the persons responsible for invoking the OSA.
Mr Kale had sought quashing of an FIR registered against him at Akluj police station, Solapur, last year. The accused had taken a photograph outside the police station, when he was called there in connection with an FIR against him.
According to the petitioner, he had clicked the photograph to show that “police personnel and the persons with whom there was a family dispute, and who had opposed the demarcation proceedings, were communicating with each other in a friendly manner”.
The court said it cannot comprehend how an FIR could have even been registered on the basis of the said photograph, that too for a serious offence under the OSA.
The HC also said it would be open for the Director General of Police, Commissioner of Mumbai Police and the Home Department to consider whether a senior high ranking level officer be informed when an FIR under the OSA is lodged in matters concerning the police station to curb the misuse of the Act.
“We regularly come across cases where FIRs are being registered by the police under the Act without application of mind, which is a matter of serious concern i.e., for acts done in the police station, videographing of discussions in the police station, taking photographs… more particularly, when a police station is not a prohibited place,” said the court.
Section 3 (Penalties for spying) of the OSA provides punishment for spying at a ‘prohibited place’ under section 2(8) of the Act. It is for acts against the safety or interest of the state.
The bench added that invocation of section 3 of the Act can have drastic consequences on the person against whom it is invoked.
“It could impact one’s reputation, job, career and so on. It cannot be lightly invoked, to jeopardise someone’s life and career. Law cannot be misused / abused and must not be used as a tool for harassing or tormenting persons. It is the duty of the police to protect people and act in accordance with law,” the court said.
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