Shillong/Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday quashed the criminal case registered against editor of The Shillong Times, Patricia Mukhim, in relation to a Facebook post by her decrying violence against non-tribal people in Meghalaya.
A bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao allowed the plea filed by Mukhim against the Meghalaya High Court order, which had refused to quash the FIR against her.
“We have allowed the appeal,” the bench said while pronouncing the judgement.
The top court had reserved its verdict in the matter on February 16.
Reacting to the apex court’s order, Mukhim said justice prevails and that she was confident she didn’t not do anything wrong.
“The FIR against me was definitely done by vested interests. If anything happens in a locality, the dorbar shnong (village councils) have to know who’s behind the crime and take action accordingly. It is not the first time that something like this has happened and I didn’t do anything to warrant an FIR,” Mukhim told EastMojo after the SC order on Thursday.
Mukhim’s counsel Vrinda Grover had earlier argued before the apex court that there was no intention to create disharmony or conflict through the post, which referred to an incident of a murderous assault on July 3, 2020. She had argued that there was “no assuaging of feelings of a community which has been attacked brutally.”
The plea before the Supreme Court stated that Mukhim is facing persecution 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.”
The counsel for Meghalaya government had earlier claimed in the top court that communal colour was given to the scuffle between minor boys and her post shows it was a communal incident between tribal and non-tribal people.
On November 10 last year, a single judge bench of the Meghalaya High Court had refused to quash the FIR filed by the Lawsohtun Dorbar Shnong (a traditional institution).
On July 3 last year, masked miscreants had attacked five boys on a basketball court in Lawsohtun village. In her post written days after the incident, Mukhim, the editor of The Shillong Times, had criticised the Lawsohtun village council for failing to identify the perpetrators. She wrote that Meghalaya has been a failed state because of continued attacks on non-tribal people and that such attackers have never been arrested since 1979.
Eleven people were picked up and two were arrested in the case.
On July 7, a village council in Meghalaya filed a complaint against Mukhim for her allegedly inciting statements. Based on this, the police registered a criminal case under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc), 500 (defamation) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief), against Mukhim for promoting enmity between different groups.
Mukhim was also served a notice under Section 41 A of the Criminal Code of Procedure (CrPC), requiring her to appear before the investigating officer.
“I’m not pro non-tribal. I’m pro humanity and pro human rights and I stand with those being victimized. Whatever I post on social media is not meant for publicity but with a sense of concern. If an FIR is filed for that then they are actually trying to suppress freedom of expression. My post had nothing to do with communal interests and I would never stand with perpetrators who need to be called out,” Mukhim said Thursday.