A single-judge Bench of Justice Rajnesh Oswal of Jammu & Kashmir & Ladakh High Court has quashed the FIR registered against activist Sushil Pandit for tweeting about the death of five CRPF jawans during the Ramzan ceasefire in Jammu & Kashmir.
The Court held, "He tweeted in the good faith what he heard, believing it to be true, that was in fact not true and immediately deleted it as soon as he came to know about the falsity of the content of tweet."
The 2018 tweet which led to this episode was –
"Just heard, five CRPF jawans martyred in Pampore. # Ramzan ceasefire is working. Question is who is it working for?"
The Court observed, "A perusal of the petitioner's tweet would reveal that it begins with words "JUST HEARD", meaning thereby that what was uploaded by him was just heard by him and he had no personal knowledge of the same."
A petition was filed by Sushil Pandit under section 561-A CrPC (now section 482) for quashing the FIR registered against him for commission of an offence under section 505 Ranbir Penal Code (RPC), equivalent to Section 505 of IPC with the Pampore the Police Station at Kashmir.
The Petitioner contended that after receiving intimation from his friend that the news related to the death of five CRPF jawans was false and based on rumor, he immediately deleted his tweet.
However, the Ex-CM of J&K used his tweet as a prop to give it an intentional communal meaning and the Petitioner never intended to create or spread communal hatred between two religious communities.
Pandit further argued that owing to some political pressure or out of pressure created by the Ex-CM's tweet, FIR was lodged against him. He pleaded that FIR did not disclose the commission of an offence under section 505 RPC.
The Respondent prosecution contended that the act of the Petitioner not only created fear psychosis and chaos among the security forces but also demoralized them. Also, the FIR did disclose the commission of offence under section 505 RPC and the same cannot be quashed.
It was Sushil Pandit's case that his tweet about the death of Jawans was based on what a speaker said during the seminar that he was attending.
The Court, on analyzing Section 505 RPC, held that the ingredient of 'Mens Rea' was absent in the act of the Petitioner and that the tweet by him was in good faith without any criminal intention to generate the consequences as provided under section 505 RPC. The Court found that the tweet was based upon the information which he received and soon thereafter he deleted the tweet when he was informed that the news was based upon rumor and is false.
"As already observed merely use of words "Just heard" would demonstrate that the petitioner has not published any statement on his own but on the basis of what he heard. He tweeted in the good faith what he heard, believing it to be true, that was in fact not true and immediately deleted it as soon as he came to know about the falsity of the content of tweet," the Bench noted.
The Court asserted that even if a case is made out under section 505 RPC he would still be rendered innocent under the exceptions of Section 505 RPC.
Accordingly, the Court quashed the impugned FIR by holding that it is nothing but an abuse of process of law and allowed the petition.