- Apprentice Lawyer
Sunaina Holey "is a professional tweeter" who through her tweets has displayed a "general tendency to vilify a particular community", the Maharashtra government told the Bombay High Court on Tuesday.
The High Court, however, said that the the plea before it was with reference to a particular First Information Report (FIR) and has to be considered in the light of the allegations in the FIR and not general tweets put out by Holey.
The Court was hearing a plea by Holey seeking quashing of FIRs registered against her in connection with her tweets against Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Cabinet Minister Aaditya Thackeray and for tweeting a video allegedly promoting enmity between two communities.
Senior Advocate Manoj Mohite, appearing for the State of Maharashtra, opposed Holey's plea.
He submitted before a Bench of Justices SS Shinde and MS Karnik that the offence of spreading enmity under Section 153-A of the Indian Penal Code committed over the internet has to be considered differently than an offence committed over another medium.
“When an offence is committed over the internet, the reach and potency is much higher than two people shouting on the road or some person in Hyderabad shouting at army in Kashmir,” he argued.
Mohite also brought to the Court’s attention, a few tweets put by the followers of Holey to point out the general tendency of people.
He read out a few tweets which tried to link the spread of the Coronavirus to the Tablighi Jamaat community.
The Court, however, asked Mohite to justify his arguments opposing the plea by referring to the allegations made within the FIR.
Justice Karnik commented, “The other tweets you read, may point out the tendency. To that extent you are correct. But when you consider the FIR and your point of use of abusive language, that we cannot accept.”
Justice Shinde added that they will have to consider this case only after examining the FIR in context of the case.
“We will have to look into the FIR for a list of allegations. We will have to examine it in the context of the FIR. Keeping in mind this, we will have to consider this case. Ultimately it will boil down to allegations in FIR,” he added.
Mohite argued that Holey was one of the few twitter account holders who commanded more than 35,000 followers. Holey, therefore, wielded considerable control over the public opinion considering her number of followers, he contended.
He submitted that the tweets put by Holey were made during a time when the lockdown had just been imposed due to Covid-19 pandemic and there was chaos all around.
“In February when the lockdown was imposed there was a chaos and spread of rumours. In April, there was spread of misinformation that food is being distributed and there are trains. The siuation turned volatile and there was unrest… Communal harmony was an issue in those days, hence Section 153A was applied,” he said.
His contention was that in such a backdrop the police was trying to control the situation by monitoring the social media. When the complainant came across Holey’s tweet, they feared public unrest and hence the FIR was registered within 24 hours of posting of the tweet.
The hearing will continue after Christmas vacation on January 4, 2021.