BJP Leader appeals in SC against Madras High Court Judgement Equating Forwarding a Message to Endorsing It

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“If sharing bed is the only way to come up in life then does it include all women who are holding high posts now?”

This was the remark of Justice S. Ramathilagam of the Hon’ble High Court of Judicature Madras while hearing a petition associated with Section 504, 505, 509 of the Indian Penal Code and  freedom of speech and expression( enshrined in Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution of India).

Section 504 of Indian Penal Code punishes whoever intentionally insults, and thereby gives provocation to any person,intending or knowing it to be likely that such provocation will cause him to break the public peace.

Section 505 of Indian Penal Code punishes those who publish or circulate any statement with the intent to incite, or which is likely to incite, any class or community of persons to commit any offense against any other class or community.

Section 509 of Indian Penal Code punishes those who, with any gesture, or exhibition of any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen, by a woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman.

FACTUAL SYNOPSIS OF THE CASE:

The accused, who is associated with BJP and is a public figure at Facebook, shared the following post on Facebook:

“Recently this disgusting fact has come out through complaints that women cannot become reporters or anchors unless they sleep with top bosses. and with these faces they come out to ask questions to the Governors”

Receiving a backlash on the social media platform itself, the post was removed but the screenshot of the post was thereafter circulated which aggrieved some of the petitioners and they filed a petition in this regard in the Hon’ble High Court of Judicature Madras.

It was unanimously agreed among the petitioners that such a derogatory statement was pointing at Women Journalists and generalizing women journalists as immoral persons, who become journalists only by way of immoral conducts.

Further it was argued that “…this is a premeditated aid campaign by the 1st respondent (accused) against the women journalist and in future it will be extended to working women of all fields who have individually raised up against injustice or expose justice. This act was done…deliberately with ulterior motive“.

It was also argued that as a result of the affiliation of the accused with the ruling party, there were unnecessary delays and inaction. Some people have linked this post with the recent controversial incident of the Tamil Nadu Governor patting the cheek of a woman journalist.

MADRAS HIGH COURT’S RULING:

The court observed

“Those words used in the message are not said under emotion. People use such words during quarrel and later they may regret but putting things in writing or typing means they know the consequences and do it. Forwarded message is equal to accepting the message and endorsing the message.”

The court took cognizance of the fact that the person forwarding the said message had significant number of followers and his setting a wrong precedent to his followers instead of being a role model to them.

The court added

“Talking is different from typing. Typing becomes a document,
one cannot go back saying that i have not done it. These messages are deleted and not erased. People should not go with a feeling that we can air anything and get away with a word sorry”

The Court, thus, dismissed the petition, directing the state police to proceed with the case and did not grant anticipatory bail to the accused on 10th May 2018.

APPEAL:

The BJP leader has appealed before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India against the High Court Judgement and the court is to decide the matter on 22nd May 2018.

This post is curated by Gunjeet Singh Bagga.