Manoj Oswal v. State of Maharashtra
In the High Court of Bombay
Crl. Writ Petition No. 314/2012
Before Justice S.C. Dharmadhikari and Justice S.B. Shukre.
Decided on August 6, 2013
Relevancy of the case: Applicability of Section 66A.
Statutes & Provisions Involved:
The Constitution of India, 1950 (Article 226)
The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (Section 482)
The Information Technology Act, 2000 (Section 66A)
The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Section 500)
Relevant Facts of the Case:
• Manoj Oswal(Petitioner) filed a writ for quashing of FIR filed by Mr.Dhananjay Diwakar(Complainant) who is an employee of the Respondent Co. namely M/s Sakal Papers Private Limited.
• The petitioner is alleged to have distributed pamphlets that contained defamatory remarks about Mr.Prataprao Govindrao Pawar, Chairman of the Respondent Co. in one of the functions of the Co. where the petitioner wasn’t even invited. The petitioner also shared links to two websites with the audience that made further defamatory statements about Prataprao.
• When the complainant received one of the pamphlets and he was clear that all these acts were done to defame him he filed an FIR under sec 500 IPC and sec 66A IT Act.
Prominent Arguments by the Advocates:
The counsel for the petitioner submits that the complaint does not disclose the commission of any offence. Hence the FIR is very vague. The essential elements for the offence to have been committed were also missing. The FIR was registered even after an enormous delay because the complainant was a powerful person.
There was no statement on the website or pamphlet that could exclusively be called defamatory or was fulfilling any other element to fall under the ambit of sec 66A.
Sec 66A deals with situations where information has been sent and not merely published. Therefore publication, information or views expressed on a website would not constitute an offence under sec 66A.
The counsel for the respondent opposed the above-mentioned contentions of the petitioner by stating all the details has been properly mentioned in the FIR. Annexures have been attached. Also the presence of the uninvited petitioner in the function, the heading of the pamphlets and his mention of the two websites which contained defamatory statements against the complainant clearly shows his mala fide intentions.
Opinion of the Bench:
The court considered the definitions of “communication service”, “computer”, “computer network”, “computer resource”, “computer system”, “data” & “information” and concluded that sec 66A includes both the act of sending and the method used to send the information. In this case, the website would amount to a computer resource and the information on the website would also fall within the scope of this section. The word “send” under sec 66A would also include “storage of information ready for accessing, transmitting and publishing using any mode” thus widening the ambit of the section.
The court also stated that a person’s right to reputation is more important than the right to freedom of speech and expression. With this reasoning, the court justified that Art. 19 is not being violated.
The court dismissed the petition.