The Supreme Court on Thursday quashed a first information report filed against journalist Patricia Mukhim for her Facebook post condemning the attack on five non-tribal youth by a gang of masked men, allegedly tribals, in Meghalaya’s Lawsohtun village, Bar and Bench reported.
A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Ravindra Bhat gave the verdict on a plea filed by Mukhim, challenging a Meghalaya High Court order which had refused to scrap the criminal proceedings against her.
In the last hearing in the case in February, the Supreme Court had reserved its judgement after Mukhim’s counsel argued that her Facebook post is not an offence.
On July 3 last year, masked miscreants had attacked five boys on a basketball court in Lawsohtun village. In the 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.
On July 7, a village council in Meghalaya filed a complaint against Mukhim for her alleged inciting statements. Based on this, the police registered a criminal case under various sections of the Indian Penal Code against the journalist for promoting enmity between different groups. She was also charged with defamation, among other things. Besides, she was served a notice under Section 41 A of the Criminal Code of Procedure, requiring her to appear before the investigating officer.
In her plea against the High Court order, the senior Shillong-based journalist had said that she was facing persecution for “speaking the truth and seeking enforcement of rule of law against perpetrators of hate crime”, according to Bar and Bench.
Advocate Vrinda Grover, representing Mukhim in the case, had argued in the Supreme Court that the content of her post was edited and words were replaced before the police. Grover added that the portrayal of a skirmish between two groups is not prohibited, and that submitted that there was “no assuaging of feelings of a community which has been attacked brutally”.
In November, the Meghalaya High Court had declined to quash a criminal case against Mukhim. Justice W Diengdoh had said Mukhim’s post “sought to create a divide to the cordial relationship between the tribal and non-tribal living in the state of Meghalaya”.