The Uttarakhand High Court held that to establish liability under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC), it is required to prove the ‘necessary mens rea’ and evidence indicating enmity between ‘two groups’.

The Court allowed a Petition challenging the summoning order associated with a case involving the promotion of disharmony through public demonstrations and posts on social media. The accused had allegedly made a statement that Hindu Samaj Khatre me hai.(“Hindu Society is in danger”)”

The Bench of Justice Ravindra Maithani observed, “In order to attract the provisions of Section 153 A IPC, the intention has some bearing. Mere statement, per se, may not make out any offence”.

even if the case of the prosecution is accepted in its entirety, it does not make out any prima facie offence under Section 153 A IPC because there are no two groups”, the Bench added.

Senior Advocate Arvind Vashistha appeared for the Petitioner and Depty Advocate General Amit Bhatt appeared for the Respondent.

The Petitioner approached the High Court challenging the chargesheet, cognizance/summoning order, and entire proceedings related to a case filed under Section 153 A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC).

The Petitioner, accused of promoting disharmony through public demonstrations and social media posts, contended that despite the Prosecution's case, no prima facie offence was established under Section 153 A IPC. The petitioner argued that the matter involved Hindus only and cited involvement in temple-related litigations. The Informant, however, claimed that the petitioner's actions promoted hatred between distinct castes, citing social media posts.

The Court noted that the Petition was filed under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC), which grants broad authority to make necessary orders for implementing the Code's orders, preventing abuse of its process, or ensuring the ends of justice. In the Section 482 proceedings, the Court emphasized that it should not conduct a mini-trial. While a lawful trial should proceed if a prima facie case is established, the key question is whether there is sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case against the Petitioner.

The Court reiterated that for an offence under Section 153A, there must be the involvement of at least two groups. The Court noted that the FIR focuses on the Petitioner allegedly attempting to create disharmony between two religions, not castes or communities. Both the Petitioner and the Informant belonged to the same religion.

While an FIR may not encompass all details, the Bench noted that there is no evidence collected during the investigation supporting the claim of disharmony between different groups, communities, or castes. Statements from witnesses emphasized the petitioner's actions related to religion and a false demonstration about the destruction of a temple, with no mention of disharmony between distinct groups.

The Court observed that to trigger the application of Section 153A IPC, the intent is crucial, and a mere statement alone may not constitute an offence. The Court reiterated that mens rea, or a guilty mind, is a necessary element for an offense under Section 153-A.

The Court, while emphasizing that the informant failed to indicate any disharmony or ill will between different groups or castes, held that no prima facie offence under Section 153A IPC is established against the Petitioner.

Accordingly, the Court allowed the Petition and set aside the summoning order along with the proceedings.

Cause Title: Vijay Singh Pal v State of Uttarakhand and Another

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