Vadgam MLA Jignesh Mevani on Tuesday moved the Gujarat High Court seeking to quash and set aside an FIR in which he has been charged with defamation, which was lodged against him a month after he shared a fake video on May 20 on Twitter.
The video showed a person in a room beating children with a foot ruler and kicking them and claimed that the assaulter was a teacher of the Valsad based RMVM School. An FIR was registered under IPC sections 505(2) [intent to incite any class or community of a person] and 500 [punishment for defamation] at Valsad Town police station by the principal of RMVM School against Mevani for allegedly defaming the school by sharing a fake video.
The FIR states that Mevani had made a public appeal in his tweet to forward the video to every WhatsApp group, and stated that it depicted a teacher of RMVM School.
As was reported by The Indian Express, Mevani’s tweet read, “Barbarism of worst form.do not leave behind a single WhatsApp number or group and forward this video to all. He is a teacher of Valsad’s RMVM School. Share this so many times that both the teacher and school shut down. This is a message I received. @PMOIndia tell us what is this?”
Mevani, in his petition, says, “…while sharing the very Whatsapp message on Twitter the petitioner has been careful enough not to identify himself with a bonafide and genuineness of the message and the allegations contained therein. The petitioner within an hour of sharing the message in question has raised further questions about the genuineness of the message, which is available on the public record.”
This was in relation to his subsequent tweet wherein he said, “is this video of Valsad Gujarat or Egypt? People have different versions. Can anyone tell us? This is most shocking and painful. People are sharing this video like crazy.”
Mevani then deleted the tweet of the video the next day after fact-checking websites clarified that it did not in fact show a teacher of RMVM school. He then tweeted, “I guess my emotional side got the better of me, which is why I shared the video yesterday. I was informed that it was originally from Syria and not from Valsad or Egypt — following which I have taken down the same. Special thanks to @altnews and @boomlive-in for clarifying the same.”
Counsel Anand Yagnik, representing Mevani, pointed out to this clarification provided by Mevani. However, Justice SH Vora questioned the advocate for providing this as ground for quashing of the FIR, asking, “And clarification absolves you from this offence of defamation?”
Mevani in his petition argued that he had been “emotional (upon) seeing the video of a child being brutally assaulted and he shared the video in the same form as he received it…” with an intention to seek a response from the prime minister of India “…and to make public authorities aware about such barbaric acts. There was no intention of the petitioner to damage the reputation of the school, neither did he want to spread any wrong rumour pertaining to the school.”
Counsel Yagnik also argued that the FIR, which also charges Mevani under Indian Penal Code (IPC)section 505 (2), does not hold as Mevani’s Twitter post was not directed towards any specific class or was not an attempt to create any rift or disquiet among communities.
Furthermore, establishing the petitioner’s case that the FIR thus lodged was with a malafide intent and with the purpose of harassing Mevani, Yagnik argued that this video has been circulating since 2017, and that between 2017 and 2019 four complaints were filed but no FIR was registered. Only in the case of Mevani the FIR was registered.
Taking cognisance of this, the court of Justice SH Vora sought a reply from the Valsad police as to why the FIR was filed against Mevani.