The Chhattisgarh High Court has stayed the police investigation into the case registered against former Chief Minister Raman Singh and Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Sambit Patra for tweeting a document, claiming it to be a “toolkit” or campaign material by the Congress, reported Bar and Bench.
Justice Narendra Kumar Vyas observed in his order, passed on June 11, that the first information report against Singh and Patra were registered out of “malafides and political grudge”.
The police lodged the case on May 19 on a complaint filed by Akash Sharma, the Chattisgarh president of the the National Student Union of India, the Congress’ youth wing. The case was registered against the leaders for allegedly forging the letterhead of Congress’ Research Department and printing “false and fabricated” content. Singh, Patra and various other BJP leaders had tweeted the document claiming that it was meant to tarnish the image of the country and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Congress, however, had told the police that the “toolkit” was fake. Fact-checking website AltNews also found that the document was created on a fake Congress letterhead.
Following the complaint, the BJP leaders were booked under sections 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 505 (public mischief), 469 (forgery) and 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the Indian Penal Code.
During the hearing, senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, representing Singh, argued that no community was affected because of the tweets and that the FIR was unwarranted, reported Live Law. “This is [a] political clash between two rival political parties,” he said. “This falls within the ambit of freedom of speech and does not affect peace and tranquility, therefore, no offence is made out.”
In its order, the High Court said sections 504 and 505 were not made out since peace was not affected by the tweets. On Section 469 on forgery, the High Court said it was clear from the FIR that the document was already in the public domain before the petitioners tweeted it.
On Section 188, the judge said that it did not comply with Section 195 of the Criminal Procedure Code that lays down the conditions for the prosecution for contempt of lawful authority of public servants.
The court then stayed the FIR till the next date of hearing. The state’s counsel has sought three weeks’ time to file replies, reported The Times of India.
Twitter had labelled Patra and Singh’s tweet as “manipulated media”. The Congress had demanded the same tag is labelled on tweets of Union ministers Giriraj Singh, Piyush Goyal, Smriti Irani, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Prahlad Joshi, Dharmendra Pradhan, Ramesh Pokhriyal, Thawarchand Gehlot, Harsh Vardhan, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.