Libertatem Magazine

Extreme Viewpoints Do Not Construe Hate Speech: Bombay High Court

Contents of this Page

Case name: 

Sunaina Holey vs. State of Maharashtra and Ors. 


A bench of Justices S.S. Shinde and M.S. Karnik held that every person in the Indian democracy has the right to express one’s viewpoints and this right cannot be taken away unless by the procedure established by law. A person is not said to be propagating hate speech merely because his/her viewpoints are extreme or harsh. It is only viewed as having a different perspective. 

The video that had been reposted by the Appellant on Twitter has a man shouting that Covid-19 is “not an act of god but an act of the Indian prime minister”. 

Arguments before the Court

The Appellant was represented by Dr. Abhinav Chadrachud who focused on the precedents set by previous cases to firmly establish Sunaina’s case. Balwant Singh vs. State of Maharashtra had stated that The intention to cause disorder or incite people to violence is the sine qua non of the offence under SECTION 153A of IPC and the prosecution has to prove prima facie the existence of mens rea on the part of the accused.

As established in Amish Devgan vs. State of Maharashtra, expression of an extreme opinion does not amount to hate speech. Further, it was established in Mazar Sayyed Khan vs. State of Maharashtra that the intention of the accused is to be judged by the words used by him/her along with the circumstances.

Observations by the Court

The Bench observed that the motive behind the reposting of the video by Sunaina was just to criticize the man’s point of view. The bench took into consideration that even if the tweet had been an extreme reaction to the viewpoint of the man who blamed the Prime Minister for the spread of Coronavirus, the tweet had to be judged according to what the reaction of reasonable, prudent persons would have been. And when the test of a reasonable man is applied, the court held that it couldn’t be said that the tweet by any means created or propagated hatred/enmity between two communities. 

The Court observed that the Appellant lacked mens rea to commit the alleged offence under SECTION 153A of the Indian Penal Court. It further stated that no case had been registered against the actual author of the video or the person who had been shouting in the video. The Bench also observed that the State’s apprehension was justified, however, filing on FIR on the apprehension that the same may lead to promoting hatred or enmity between different groups on the ground of religion or that she has committed an act which is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious groups, is too far fetched and remote.

Court’s Orders

The Court stated that the Respondent’s reaction to the tweet was “hypersensitive and over-cautious, thereby trying to scent danger in the hostile point of view expressed by the Petitioner.” 

The court ordered that the FIR against the accused must be judged based on the point of view of a reasonable man and not that of hypersensitive people. It further stated that for SECTION 153A to be applicable, it must involve two communities, inciting the feelings of one community without referring to any other community cannot amount to the application of this section. Thus, the court quashed the FIR.

Click here to read the judgement is now on Telegram. Follow us for regular legal updates and judgment from courts. Follow us on Google News, InstagramLinkedInFacebook & Twitter. You can subscribe to our Weekly Email Updates. You can also contribute stories like this and help us spread awareness for a better society. Submit Your Post Now.

About the Author