We Are Shocked & Appalled: Bombay HC On FIR Against Man Under Official Secrets Act For Taking Photograph Of Police Station
The Bombay High Court has expressed shock over police registering an FIR against a man for allegedly taking photograph of the police station from outside.
"We are shocked and appalled, how the concerned Police Officer could have even lodged an offence for the alleged act of taking photograph of the Police Station, from outside, under the Official Secrets Act, as against the petitioner.", the bench of Justice Revati Mohite Dere and Justice Prithviraj K. Chavan observed.
In this case, the petitioner was called to a police station in connection with an F.I.R registered against him.
According to respondent No.1-Head constable, when he was taking note of the complaints of the citizens, he found that the petitioner was taking photographs on his mobile.
When he checked the petitioner's mobile phone, he saw a photograph taken by the petitioner of the Police Station, from outside with people standing, pursuant to which, he lodged the aforesaid F.I.R, alleging an offence punishable under Section 3 of the Official Secrets Act.
Section 3 of the Official Secrets Act, provides punishment for acts, prejudicial to the safety or interests of the State; acts done affecting the sovereignty and integrity of India and so on i.e, for the acts stipulated therein.
Advocate Prasad Avhad appeared for Petitioner and J.P. Yagnik, A.P.P appeared for State.
The Court observed that prima facie, Section 3 appeared to have been malafidely invoked by the concerned Police.
"By no stretch of imagination, section 3 could have been invoked in the facts of the present case. It is pertinent to note, that the definition of 'prohibited place' as defined in section 2(8) of the Official Secrets Act, is an exhaustive definition, which does not specifically include 'Police Station' as one of the places or establishments.", the court noted.
"We cannot comprehend, how an F.I.R could have even been registered on the basis of the said photograph, that too, for a serious offence under section 3 of the Official Secrets Act.", the Court noted.
The Court observed that invocation of section 3 of the Act, which punishes for spying, can have drastic consequences on the person against whom it is invoked and could impact one's reputation, job, career.
The Court further observed "We regularly come across cases where F.I.R's are being registered by the Police, under section 3 of the Official Secrets Act, without application of mind, which is a matter of serious concern i.e for acts done in the Police Station, video graphing of discussions in the Police Station, taking photographs within the Police Station, etc, more particularly, when a 'Police Station' is not a prohibited place."
The Court held that the registration of FIR against the petitioner under Section 3 is an abuse of the process of law.
Accordingly, the Court quashed the case registered against the petitioner and the Court imposed costs of Rs. 25000 on the State.
Earlier, in October, the Court had quashed the FIR registered against a man who was accused of secretly video-recording certain proceedings of the police station on his mobile phone. While quashing the FIR, the Court observed that the definition of 'prohibited place' as defined in section 2(8) of the Official Secrets Act does not specifically include Police Station as one of the places or establishments, which could be included in the definition 'prohibited place'.
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