Manik Taneja v. State of Karnataka
(2015) 7 SCC 423
In the Supreme Court of India
Cri. A. 141/2015
Before Justice V. Gopala Gowda and Justice R. Banumathi
Decided on January 20, 2015
Relevancy of the case: Whether posting a comment on the Facebook page of Traffic Police amounts to criminal intimidation?
Statutes & Provisions Involved
- The Information Technology Act, 2000 (Section 66A)
- The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Section 353, 503, 506)
- The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (Section 482)
Relevant Facts of the Case
- The appellant and his wife (appellant number 2) met with an accident with an auto-rickshaw on 13.06.2013 at about 10.30 am. The appellant number 2 is amicably settled the matter between the appellants and the injured, and no FIR was lodged. The appellants allege that as soon as they entered Mr Kasim’s office (respondent number 2), he behaved rudely and threatened her. Further, the appellants were booked on the charge of rash and negligent driving.
- The aggrieved appellants posted comments on the Bangalore Traffic Police Facebook page, accusing Mr Kasim of his misbehaviour. They also forwarded an email complaining about the harassment meted out to them. Subsequently, FIR was registered against the appellants for offences punishable under Sections 353 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
- The appellants filed a criminal petition number 252/2014 under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, before the High Court seeking to quash the FIR and the criminal proceedings initiated against them on the ground that the complaint is an afterthought. The High court dismissed the petition stating that the petition was filed at a premature stage. The appellants by this special leave are seeking to assail the correctness of the above order.
Prominent Arguments by the Advocates
- The learned counsel for the appellants contends that posting of a comment on the Facebook page of the traffic police does not amount to an offence under Sections 353 and 506 and the FIR was not sustainable in law. It was submitted that the Bengaluru Traffic Police Facebook page itself is a public forum meant for citizens to discuss and post their grievances. Therefore, the appellants’ comment on Facebook would not prima facie constitute the offence, and the High Court erred in not appreciating the matter in proper perspective.
- The learned counsel for the respondents contends that by posting a comment on the Facebook page, the appellants obstructed the public duty of the complainant and his staff by publicly making baseless allegations. It was submitted that such posting of derogatory comments on the Facebook page amounts to ‘threatening’ and ‘criminal intimidation’ under Section 506. It affects the complainant’s reputation and integrity. The High Court rightly declined to quash the FIR and the impugned order warrants no interference.
Opinion of the Bench
- The honourable bench believes that the appellants might have posted the comment online under the bona fide belief that it was within the permissible limits. Facebook appears as a public forum meant for helping the public. In the court’s view, none of the ingredients of the alleged offences is satisfied. Hence, it would be unjust to allow the court’s process to be continued against the appellants.
- The bench allowed the appeal and set aside the impugned order of the concerned High Court. Further, the FIR registered against the appellants is also quashed.