On Wednesday, the Supreme Court reserved its order on seasoned journalist and editor Patricia Mukhim’s plea challenging the Meghalaya High Court’s refusal to quash criminal proceedings against her over her Facebook post.
Addressing advocate AM Tripathi, who was appearing for the state, Justice L Nageswara Rao said, “We know we cannot interfere in matters of the FIR. But you should at least make a case…If the allegations don’t make an offence under the section, then the FIR is quashed…You need to make a case as to how Section 153A would apply.”
Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code applies to the promotion of enmity between different groups on grounds of race, religion, etc. Tripathi said the investigation was still going on.
Advocate Vrinda Grover appeared for Mukhim. She alleged that Mukhim’s Facebook post had been edited before it was placed before the police. “The entire post hasn’t been in place,” she said.. “One extract has been selectively placed before the police.” She also pointed out that the intention of the post “was not to create any disharmony” but “precisely the opposite”, and that the post had condemned “atrocities committed on minorities”.
Tripathi, however, said that the involvement of a well-known journalist implied that the effect would be high. “It’s expected of a journalist of that repute to ascertain the facts before writing something, that too when she has so many followers,” he said. He also said Mukhim had given a “communal colour” to the incident.
The criminal case was in the context of a Facebook post published by Mukhim last year on continued attacks on non-tribals in the state. Mukhim’s post had been based on a July 3 incident where unidentified youths armed with iron roads and sticks assaulted a group of non-tribal youths playing basketball, the Indian Express reported.
A complaint had been filed against Mukhim by the Dorbar Shnong, a governing body, of Lawsohtun. Mukhim had been charged under Sections 153A, 500 and 505(c) of the Indian Penal Code.
According to a report by the Print, the high court had observed that Mukhim’s post “sought to create a divide to the cordial relationship between the tribal and non-tribal living in the State of Meghalaya even alluding to the role of the state machinery as being bias in this regard”.
In November 2020, a single bench of the Meghalaya High Court had dismissed the plea filed by Mukhim seeking to quash the FIR registered against her