Punjab and Haryana High Court ruled that inciting people on social media against Government of India amounts to waging war against the state. It increased the reach of the court in cyberspace with its latest verdict.
Facts of the Case
The Hon’ble Punjab and Haryana High Court was listening to a bail application filed by petitioner seeking regular bail for committing offence of waging war against the state or attempting to wage a war against the state as mentioned in section 121/121A of the Indian Penal Code and offence of abetting, advocating inciting commission of any unlawful activity as given under section 10 and 13 of The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. Petitioner was arrested on 25th May 2016. Respondents placed on record 3000 pages documents to substantiate the fact the petitioner had used social media platforms to incite hatred towards Government of India with a view to establishing an independent State of Khalistan for Sikhs. Petitioner also distributed pamphlets encouraging Sikh youth to join organization for formation of Khalistan on the eve of Hola-Mohalla Festival in the month of March and further also reproduced similar provocative and incendiary messages from the Leaders of designated Terrorist Groups based in Pakistan on Social Media/ Facebook Account which is accessible to innumerable people both in India and worldwide. Two grievances were raised by the petitioner which are as follows:
- Charges framed against the petitioner are not established from the prosecution material collected during the investigation
- Petitioner has undergone detention in excess of two years till date, on account of which his further detention for an indefinite period is not justified.
The Decision of the Case and Arguments advanced
Justice Sudip Ahluwalia refused to grant bail to the petitioner and dismissed the application. Learned Counsel for petitioner Mr. R.S Bains argued that sharing alleged seditious/communally sensitive or hateful posts on social media does not cover the ingredients to establish the offence under section 121. The state countered this argument by saying that even collecting men, and not necessarily arms and ammunition, would amount to attempting to wage a war against the government. The learned single Judge agreed with the argument of state and observed that …. “here the incitement is on social media directly accessible all over the World simultaneously, and not just in a limited crowded place, such as the one in which slogan were shouted… It can therefore, be safely held that the petitioner by way of collecting men, with the intention of either waging or being prepared to wage war against the Government of India, would be liable under section 122 of the IPC, which is punishable at par with section 121-A of IPC itself, for which he is facing trial. Punishment in such case can extend to life imprisonment.”
Moreover, the Hon’ble judge after examining the record put forward by state concluded material posted by the petitioner undoubtedly reveal overt incitement to violence for the purpose of establishing the State of Khalistan. High Court directed the trial court to finish the trial as quickly as possible.