Lockdown tweet: HC orders quashing of FIR against Navi Mumbai resident

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Mumbai, May 5 (PTI) The Bombay High Court on Wednesday said a tweet by a Navi Mumbai woman about a gathering of migrants at the Bandra terminus during the lockdown last year did not amount to any wrongdoing, and ordered for quashing of an FIR registered against her.

Sunaina Holey had approached the HC last year through her counsel Dr Abhinav Chandrachud, seeking that the FIR registered against her by the Mumbai police be quashed.

She was booked under several sections of the Indian Penal Code, including 153-A for vilifying a particular religious group or community, after she tweeted about a large group of migrants who had gathered at the Bandra terminus during the first phase of the nationwide coronavirus-induced lockdown in 2020.

In its verdict on Wednesday, the HC bench of Justices S S Shinde and M S Karnik said Holey's tweet had not named any particular community and did not create any enmity between communities.

'By no stretch of imagination it can be said that the tweet created enmity between two groups of communities. It is revealed from the contents of the complaint that no community was named, there was no hatred,' the court said.

The HC said if a prudent person were to judge Holey's tweets, he or she would see there was no element 'mens rea (intention of wrongdoing)' on Holey's part.

Senior advocate Manoj Mohite, who appeared for the Maharashtra government, sought a stay on the verdict to enable the state to take appropriate steps.

However, the HC refused the request saying there was no question of a stay since it had ordered for the FIR to be quashed.

'We do appreciate the efforts made by the police to keep a vigil on social media platforms in such situations,' the HC said.

However, the FIR in the present case does not reveal the commission of any offence, and this is a 'fit case to quash the FIR,' the court said.

During previous hearings, Mohite told the HC that Holey had over 20,000 followers and her tweets had a large reach, and she could be considered a 'professional tweeter'.

Holey's counsel, advocate Chandrachud however, had argued that merely having a large follower count did not make Holey a professional tweeter.

He had also said that Holey's tweet did not mention any particular religious community and it had not resulted in any untoward incident.

Holey also has two other FIRs against her for some other tweets made last year.

Her pleas seeking quashing of those FIRs are pending in the HC and will be heard independently, the court said. PTI AYA GK GK