The Bombay High Court Nagpur Bench recently quashed an FIR lodged against a man, who had hacked the Facebook page of MLA Ravi Rana and had used abusive language against his political opponents.

The Bench of Justice Sunil B. Shukre and Justice M.W. Chandwani said that the Indian Democracy had progressed so much that tolerance to fair criticism or dissent or critical and satirical comments had become its hallmark.

"The social media, such as facebook, instagram, twitter, whatsapp, telegram, etc. today has become a powerful medium for exchange of views, expressing opinions, views, counter opinions and counter views, posting critical or satirical comments and thus has become one of the important pillars on which our democracy stands." observed the Court

APP I.J. Damle appeared for the non- applicant no. 1, the State and submitted that the allegations in the FIR indicated that the accused intended to create disharmony amongst the various groups by using abusive language. Thus, disturbing the public order and further creating feeling of insecurity.

Advocate T.S. Deshpande appearing for the applicant contended that even if the allegations made were accepted, no offence under Section 153-A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 was made out.

The Court observed that the social medial would be a pillar of democracy only till the point it won't be misused by posting remarks, which by themselves would constitute an offence or which would not fall within the prohibited zone created in terms of Article 19(2) of the Constitution.

The Court further expressed that "In addition, one has to be careful when one expresses one's view or makes comments that the words used are not obscene or indignified or demeaning. In other words, a balance has to be struck between the need for healthy use of social media and the need for preventing misuse of social media."

The Court observed that even though a case under Section 153-A of IPC was not made out but that did not give license to the applicant to revile the head of the State Government and therefore, after considering the essential ingredients of an offence under Section 153-A IPC and the filthy language used to denounce a leader, the fine balance on which the social media stood was upset.

The Court, therefore, quashed the FIR with a hope that restraint would be exercised by the parties in future and said that "A crime not disclosed has been registered against the applicant on the one hand and a new ebb in showing dissent through lewd comments has been attained by the applicant on the other."

Accordingly, the application was allowed.

Cause Title- Suraj v. The State of Maharashtra

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