The Bombay High Court on Thursday reserved its order on a plea by Navi Mumbai resident Sunaina Holey, seeking the quashing of an FIR lodged against her for her tweet on a gathering of migrant workers outside the Bandra station in Mumbai during the lockdown last April.
Holey was booked under sections 505 (statements conducive to public mischief) and 153A (promoting enmity between different groups) of the Indian Penal Code and the Information Technology Act. The bench, during an earlier hearing, had asked if Holey’s tweet led to any a “chain reaction”.
The state government had said that the petitioner, with more than 20, 000 followers on Twitter, was a “professional tweeter” and “social media influencer” and was involved in “spreading misinformation” in “volatile situation” and therefore, her posts cannot be disregarded and the FIR against her was justified. Advocate Abhinav Chandra-chud, representing Holey, on Thursday refuted claims that she had spread communal enmity. He argued that merely having a large following on Twitter did not make his client a “professional tweeter”.
Chandrachud said that Holey’s tweet did not mention any religious community and though several months had passed since the April 14, 2020 tweet, the police had not been able to point to any untoward incident that had taken place following the tweet.
Senior advocate Manoj Mohite, representing the state, argued that Holey had tweeted offensive posts earlier as well. “She had tweeted something derogatory previously, and then the police had written to Twitter to take it down. So, it is not that the police are vindictive,” he said.
Responding to the court’s inquiry on whether the circumstances aggravated because of Holey’s tweet, Mohite said the tweet was re-tweeted by her followers. As further investigation is still on, the FIR against her should not be quashed, he added. Mohite, however, said that Holey’s tweet was not responsible for migrant workers gathering at Bandra last April. Justice Shinde said, “We always say that in case of freedom of expression, dignity of posts, whichever they may be, should be maintained.”
In response, Mohite referred to the recent protests at Capitol Hill in the US and stressed on the impact of tweets made by influential people. “Kindly see what happens with tweets (that triggered protests) in the USA, the largest democracy. We should be thankful for our authorities,” he added. The court went on to reserve its order on the plea.
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