SC Quashes FIR Against Journo Patricia Mukhim Over Facebook Post

The counsel argued, “No assuaging of feelings of a community, which has been attacked brutally.”

2 min read
Journalist Patricia Mukhim

The Supreme Court on Thursday, 25 March, quashed the First Information Report (FIR) registered against the Editor of Shillong Times, Patricia Mukhim, for allegedly spreading communal discord through a Facebook post, which censured violence against non-tribal people in the state.

A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Ravindra Bhat, delivered the judgement on a plea filed by Mukhim, which challenged the Meghalaya High Court's order dismissing her plea to quash criminal proceedings.

Examining the petition, the Justices said, “Free speech of the citizens of this country cannot be stifled by implicating them in criminal cases unless such speech has the tendency to affect public order.”

The bench said that Mukhim’s Facebook post asking for the protection of non-tribals living in Meghalaya and for their equality could not be categorised as hate speech.

“…if the victims voice their discontent, and speak out, especially if the state authorities turn a blind eye, or drag their feet, such voicing of discontent is really a cry for anguish, for justice denied – or delayed. This is exactly what appears to have happened in this case,” the Justices said, according to LiveLaw.

What Was the Case Against Her?

The petition was filed before the Supreme Court by advocate-on-record Prasanna S.

The case against Mukhim was filed under Sections 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc), 500 (punishment for defamation), and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code, Bar & Bench reported.

Senior Counsel Vrinda Grover, appearing for Mukhim, had argued that, “There was no assuaging of feelings of a community, which has been attacked brutally.”

The plea before the apex court stated that she was being persecuted for "speaking the truth and seeking enforcement of rule of law against perpetrators of hate crime, in exercise of her fundamental right as guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India," Bar & Bench quoted.

It was also submitted that a direct reading of her post would make it evident that her intention "is to appeal for impartial enforcement of rule of law; equal treatment of all citizens before the law; condemnation of targeted violence against members of a minority group; and an end to impunity for violence and thereby ensuring peace and harmony between communities and groups," Bar & Bench reported.

(With inputs from Bar and Bench and LiveLaw.)

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