Karnataka High Court
Karnataka High Court
Litigation News

Sovereignty of India takes precedence over right to liberty: Karnataka HC denies bail to techie jailed for "spread the virus" Facebook post

Rintu Mariam Biju

The Karnataka High Court recently rejected the bail application of a 38-year-old software engineer who allegedly encouraged people on social media to spread the Coronavirus. (Karnataka High Court Techie bail)

The engineer’s alleged Facebook post, threatened the country’s sovereignty and integrity, the Court opined.

Techie's post on facebook
Techie's post on facebook

While denying the techie bail, a Single Judge Bench of Justice KS Mudagal observed,

"Therefore, sovereignty, fraternity and integrity of the India take precedence over Article 21 the fundamental right of liberty..."

Karnataka High Court

Appearing for the petitioner Mohammed Mujeeb, Advocate Mohammed Tahir submitted that the major offence alleged against his client was one under Section 153A (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) of the Indian Penal Code. The maximum punishment prescribed under this provision is imprisonment up to 3 years.

Further, Tahir assured the Court that Mujeeb would co-operate with the investigation and during the trial as well. In this view, he contended that bail may be granted to the petitioner.

Countering Mujeeb's bail application, government pleader GS Vinayaka argued that the punishment prescribed for the offence is not the sole criteria for granting bail, and that the nature and gravity of the offence will have to be taken into consideration.

Additionally, it was pointed that there was a clue that the petitioner has links with unorganized terrorist groups, which has to be unearthed during further investigation. Given this, it was urged that the petitioner's bail application be rejected.

After hearing the rival contentions, the Court firstly observed that whether the punishment prescribed is the sole criteria in considering the bail application needs to be examined. In this regard, the Court noted that the petitioner was a well-educated man and therefore, was aware of the repercussions of his acts.

Though the petitioner sought bail on the ground of his mental health condition, the documents produced to support the said claim were all issued by some private practitioner, the Bench remarked. Further, when the Court proposed to send the petitioner to NIMHANS for evaluation of his mental health condition, Tahir submitted that he does not press that ground, Justice Mudagal noted.

Taking serious note of the Investigating Officer's report and the case diary, the Court noted,

"...They prima-facie show that though the petitioner was well educated and well employed, uploaded the above stated messages and they are likely to cause disharmony, hatredness and hostile to the humanity. They are likely to cause panic amongst the people when the entire world is undergoing a traumatic situation due to Covid-19 pandemic."

Karnataka High Court

The Court further noted that the investigation reports opined that the petitioner was influenced by some elements preaching religious fanaticism and anti-national ideas. It was further made out that Mujeeb even "shared a Pakistan WhatsApp number for Islamic information".

Noting that investigation into these issues was still underway, the Bench said that the bail plea cannot be considered solely on the basis that the offences quoted in the FIR does not carry punishment beyond three years.

With these pertinent observations, the Court went on to reject the petitioner's bail application.

While doing so, it granted liberty to the petitioner to file a fresh petition once the charge sheet was filed.

Read Judgment here

Karnataka HC Techie bail.pdf
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