Supreme Court Refuses Congress Leader’s Plea for Squashing FIRs in Different States Based on His Tweet Allegedly Hurting Religious Sentiments

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On Friday, The Supreme Court denied the plea of Congress leader of Haryana, Pankaj Punia. This was on the basis of an FIR, where the Haryana Police arrested him on 20th May.  He Posted a Tweet on Twitter. This Post on Twitter hurt the religious feelings of the people. An FIR was filed, subsequently, against him. The Supreme Court denied the plea for quashing FIRs filed in the States of UP and MP. 

Supreme Court’s Response

A three-judge bench consisting of Justices Arun Mishra, Abdul Nazeer and Indira Banerjee heard the case. Sr. Advocate Sanjay Hedge was Punia’s lawyer. The Bench dismissed the writ petition. The bench stated, “We will not entertain this petition under Article 32, of Indian Constitution.” Additionally, the bench granted liberty “to approach concerned High Court or appropriate forum.”

Relevant Sections In the Case

Vivek Lamba, the complainant is a resident of Karnal, Haryana. On his complaint, Madhuban Police Station registered an FIR. The FIR filed was u/s 153, 295-A, 505(2) of the IPC and also Section 67 of The IT Act, for Punia’s tweet which he uploaded on the evening of 19th May. 

Petitioner’s Arguments

Punia said that there is a growing tendency to file FIRs on the same cause of action. Additionally, he stated that this allows the state to detain a citizen for prolonged periods, pending an investigation.

In addition, he stated that FIRs filed in different states make it difficult to appear in each Court all over the country. Further, he stated that this practice has injurious consequences in a democracy.

The Investigation started on the basis of the FIR registered at Madhuban PS, Karnal. And subsequently, the Haryana Police arrested Punia on 21st May. In addition to this, they also confiscated the mobile phone used to make the tweet. Punia was moved to 14 days Judicial Custody on 22nd May.

It should be noted that the Investigation of the FIRs at UP and MP is yet to begin. In the due course, the petition seeks to quash these FIRs.

Petitioner’s comparison with Arnab Goswami

The petitioner was placed in the same position as Arnab Goswami in a judgement passed on 19th May by The SC. Herein, many FIRs were filed against them from different parts of the country. However, the FIRs were malafide and the petitioner’s political opponents filed them.

Petitioner’s Tweet

The petitioner using his twitter account tweeted and criticized UP’s, Chief Minister.

The tweets related to the following happenings:

  1. Where there was a speech for calling a Muslim woman to be taken out of the grave and be raped. This speech was stated during his Hindu Yuvahini rally in 2007. This Organisation was found by UP’s CM Yogi Adityanath. The CM was there when this statement was passed.
  2. In February 2020, drunken men molested and harassed women students. They were chanting slogans of “Jai Shri Ram” at Gargi College, New Delhi.

The tweets were about these above happenings. However, he deleted the tweet next morning. Furthermore, he clarified that the tweet referring to the Gargi college incident. He also apologized to the people who were offended because of the tweet.

Even after deleting the tweet, people came up with screenshots of the same. Consequently, he received several death threats on social media. He then wrote to the Police Superintendent, Karnal for protection. Additionally, he requested that several FIRs be combined and investigated at Karnal. He said that he is ready to cooperate with the investigation at Karnal. After his arrest, social media users said that his custody should be handed over to UP police to ensure “better treatment”.

Furthermore, it was claimed that the petitioner’s tweet was only to criticize UP’s CM. However, the FIR did not mention the provisions that the petitioner infringed. 

State’s Observation:

The State of Haryana opposed the petitioner’s bail application and said that:

“That the petitioner’s tweet was enough to cause enmity and hatred between workers of the Congress party and Rashtriya Sewayam Sewak Singh”. Furthermore, “The same goes to show that offences under Section 153 A and 505(2) of IPC are not made out”.

Held

The SC, refused the Punia’s Plea for Squashing FIRs in Different States. They opined that his Tweet did Hurt Religious Sentiments of the people.


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