On Wednesday, Supreme Court clearly stated that Ordinary citizens cannot be harassed for criticising Government. Court said that over the issue where Delhi woman was summoned by the Kolkata police for an objectionable Facebook post.
Notably, the woman had shared a crowded Raja Bazar area scene of Kolkata and questioned the Mamta Banerjee government’s seriousness to enforce the lockdown.
The bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee said that the post was too irrelevant to be converted into FIR. Such summonings will harm the constitutionally guarded fundamental right of free speech under Article 19(1)(a).
The bench remarked, “If some person writes something against the Government in some country, are you (state) going to make him appear, say in Kolkata or Chandigarh or Manipur and tell him that now we will teach you a lesson. This is a dangerous proposition. Let this remain a free country.”
Roshni Biswas, a resident of Delhi, who faced a FIR registered at Ballygunje police station on May 13 for an objectionable post attributed to her on a Facebook page. The FIR was registered for offences under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) involving promoting enmity between religious groups (Section 153A), outraging religious feelings (Section 295A), defamation (Section 500), breach of peace (Section 504), public mischief (Section 505) and other related provisions under the Information Technology Act and Disaster Management Act.
Senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, appearing for Roshni, told the bench, “Where is a cognisable offence made out. Moreover, my client has denied that she has any connection with the objectionable post. They want to call me to Kolkata and put me under terror.”
The FIR attached other web links to imply from the posts that “the State administration is complacent while dealing with lock down violations caused by a certain segment of the community”.
The state police denied any attempt to harass the petitioner. Senior advocate R Basanth, who represented the West Bengal government, said, “In Section 41A proceedings, Courts should not interfere. Why should the state be against her? She agreed before the HC to appear but did not do so. We only seek to question her and not harass her. Some persons cannot claim to be more equal than others.”
On a bare reading of the FIR, the bench remarked, “We will be the first institution in this country to tell citizens that if they have done wrong, they must answer to the law but not for this. We have to be here to ensure ordinary citizens are not harassed like this…We have strong reservations against people being called from one state to another just because they have criticised the government.”
Although, Supreme Court stayed Culcutta High Court order of September 29 asking the Delhi woman to appear in Kolkata while asking the petitioner to cooperate with the investigation, reported PTI.