Bombay HC Dismiss FIRs And imposes ₹25k costs On State Govt For ‘Unlawful’ Arrest Of Congress Activist

Bombay HC

The Bombay High Court on Monday dismissed two FIRs against Congress activist Sandeep Kudale and fined the State government Rs 25,000 for the unlawful arrest.

A division bench of Justice Revati Mohite-Dere and Justice Prithviraj K Chavan stated that Section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on various grounds) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) should not be used to stifle dissent.

“Law cannot be used as a tool or as an instrument of oppression, by registering FIRs, to harass people by preventing/intimidating them, from expressing their views/opinions/dissent, which the Constitution of India, guarantees to them. The right to express one’s views is a protected and cherished right in our democracy and cannot be taken away by imposition of Section 153A of the IPC and by arresting a person as done in the present case. Section 153A cannot be resorted to silence people from expressing their views/opinions/dissent, so long as Article 19(2) (reasonable restrictions on freedom of speech) is not violated” the bench ordered.

On December 11,2022, Sandeep Kudale was arrested by the Pune Police for violating sections 153A(1)(a) and 153A(1)(b) of the IPC (promoting enmity between different groups) for a social media post following State Minister for Higher Education Chandrakant Patil’s statements about Dr. BR Ambedkar and Mahatma Jyotiba Phule.

After reviewing the submitted footage, the Court determined that there was no evidence of an offence against Kudale.

Admittedly, there was no unlawful assembly and rioting.

“The contents of the video if read in its entirety and in the background in which the same were made, does not show that the petitioner, an ordinary citizen, affiliated to a political party, had any malafide intention or the requisite mens rea necessary to constitute the alleged offences,” the bench pointed out.

The court also concluded that Kudale’s language and statements were at best repulsive, but not repulsive enough to warrant the filing of a FIR, let alone his detention.

“It is the job of the police to maintain peace and order, and this cannot be done by invoking Section 153A on the pretence that it is done,” the Court decided.

As a result, the Court invalidated both FIRs and ordered the State government to pay Kudale 25,000 in fees for his unlawful arrest.

It is to be noted that the costs were directed to be recovered from the salaries of police officers in charge of FIR registration.

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About the Author: Nunnem Gangte