People cannot be implicated in false cases to stifle their free speech: Supreme Court

Free speech if the country’s citizens can’t be stifled by implicating them in criminal cases unless such speech affects the public order. Hon’ble Supreme Court made this remark while quashing the FIR registered against Shillong Times Editor Ms Patricia Mukhim due to her Facebook post about violence against non-tribal Meghalaya people.

A Bench comprising Hon’ble Justice L Nageshwara and Hon’ble Justice S Ravindra Bhat noted that the post was directed against Meghalaya’s CM apathy, who did not take any action against culprits who attacked non-tribal youngsters.

The Bench stated that government inaction couldn’t be branded as an attempt to promote hatred between communities.

Hon’ble Court allowed Mukhim’s appeal that challenged Meghalaya HC’s order wherein it refused to quash the FIR . The Bench had referred to Section 153A and 505(1) of IPC and observed that the law should step in only if the speech might affect public order or disturb the law and order situation.

While referring to Mukhim’s Facebook post, the Bench opined that her plea for protecting non-tribals living in Meghalaya and fighting for their equality could not be termed as hate speech.

The Court referred to the Supreme Court of Canada’s judgement in Saskatchewan (Human Rights Commission) vs Whatcott that explained an approach while interpreting the word hatred. It is used in provisions that prohibit hate speech.

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The Court allowed the appeal and observed that India is a multicultural and plural society. If a person’s fundamental right is violated, then citizens speak out and voice their discontent, and this is what had happened in the instant case.

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