Observing that the job of police officers in the pandemic was difficult and personnel of Mumbai Police, which is considered as one of the best in the world, were overburdened, the Bombay High Court directed a woman, seeking to quash all First Information Reports (FIR) and charges levelled against her, to cooperate with the ongoing investigation against her.
It directed Sunaina Holey, a Navi Mumbai resident who has been booked by the Mumbai and Palghar police for alleged offensive remarks on social media against Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and his son and minister Aditya Thackeray in July this year, appear before Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) Cyber Police station on November 2.
A division bench of Justice S S Shinde and Justice M S Karnik Thursday was hearing Holey’s plea seeking interim protection from arrest pending hearing of the case. All three FIRs were registered after several persons, including Yuva Sena member Rohan Chavan, made complaints against her. She was booked under sections 505 (Punishment for statements conducting public mischief) and 153 (A) (Punishment for promoting enmity between different religious groups) of the Indian Penal Code and other provisions of IT Act.
The bench, on September 11, had said freedom of speech and expression guaranteed in Article 19 of the Constitution was not an absolute right and refused to grant interim protection from arrest to Holey. “Perhaps citizens are under the impression that freedom of speech and expression is an absolute right, without any restrictions,” the bench led by Justice S S Shinde had said.
However, the court had accepted the state government’s oral assurance that the woman will not be arrested in the case for at least two weeks.
The state had said that such a relief will be given if the woman cooperates with the probe and attends Azad Maidan Police station in Mumbai and Tulinj Police station in Palghar district for questioning.
On October 1, the court had accepted the state government’s assurance that Holey will not be arrested by Azad Maidan Police station as the investigating officer had tested positive for Covid-19 and posted further hearing to October 29.
On Thursday, state government lawyer J P Yagnik submitted that despite notice issued to Holey under section 41-A of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), she had not appeared before the investigating officer concerned of BKC Cyber Police station in Mumbai and sought her appearance at earliest.
Advocate Abhinav Chandrachud, representing Holey, submitted that she had a health issue and, therefore, could not appear, adding she was ready to appear before the BKC Cyber Police station on November 2. The same was accepted by the court.
Moreover, referring to the police force’s workload, Justice Shinde said, “The job of police officers is difficult during these times. Sometimes they have more than 12-hour shifts. Then they have to do bandobast for morchas and processions. With all these odds, the Mumbai Police is considered as one of the best in the world after Scotland Yard.”
Chandrachud responded in affirmative and said, “Yes, especially during Covid times, it has worked hard.”
Justice Shinde said, ” Some amount of cooperation is required from you (people) too.”
The court posted further hearing on plea to November 23 and said if there was any urgency, the petitioner was at liberty to move to the appropriate court seeking relief.
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