Sambit Patra v. State of Chhattisgarh

The Cyber Blog IndiaCase Summary

Quashing of FIRs due to lack of prima facie evidence in a case involving defamatory tweets

Sambit Patra v. State of Chhattisgarh
(2021) 3 CGLJ (SN 9) 17
In the High Court of Chhattisgarh
WP (Cr.) 251/2020
Before Justice Sanjay K. Agrawal
Decided on April 12, 2021

Relevancy of the case: Quashing of FIRs due to lack of prima facie evidence in a case involving defamatory tweets

Statutes and Provisions Involved

  • The Information Technology Act, 2000 (Section 66)
  • The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Section 499, 500, 501 & 505(1), 153A, 298 & 505(2))
  • The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1932 (Section 10)
  • The Madhya Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2000
  • The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (Section 156(3), 199, 198)

Relevant Facts of the Case

  • Through a tweet, the Madhya Pradesh Congress made allegations that the government for mishandling the COVID-19 crisis in India. In response to this tweet, the petitioner replied with the extent of scams that would have taken place if Congress were in power.
  • Hence, the police stations across Chattisgarh filed several FIRs upon receiving complaints from local Congress leaders.
  • The petitioner has challenged the FIRs on the grounds that it is based on false accusations and subsequently curbs his fundamental rights under Article 19(1)(a) and Article 21.

Prominent Arguments by the Advocates

  • The petitioner’s counsel argued that registering an FIR under Sections 153A & 505 is basically baseless in this case. These sections only pertain to cases involving two or more religious communities. As a result, it is not applicable in this situation.
  • The petitioner’s counsel stated that Sections 499, 500, and 505 are non-cognizable offences. Thus, it requires a Magistrate’s order before registration of an FIR.
  • The petitioner’s counsel argued the reason for invoking Section 66 of the Information Technology Act, 2000. It says that the act must be unauthorized computer access. Thus, Section 66 does not apply here as it has not taken place in the instant case.
  • The petitioner’s counsel cited the case of Abdulla Khan v. Prakash K. for defamation charges. In this case, the Supreme Court held that intention is a requirement, which is absent in this case.
  • The petitioner’s counsel argued that for a complaint under Section 199 CrPC to be valid, the complainant must have a personal interest in the defamed deceased, which is not the case here. Moreover, for Section 505(1) to apply, an essential feature is absent here, i.e., a threat to the state’s security.
  • The respondent’s counsel submitted that Section 155 CrPC does not stop the registration of FIRs in non-cognizable cases, as can be seen in the Supreme Court’s decision in the State of Punjab v. Raj Singh. As for Section 505(1), although it is a non-cognizable offence, Madhya Pradesh, by a notification, had declared that the offence in Section 505(1), when committed in any area of Madhya Pradesh, shall be cognizable. Chhattisgarh also adopted the same.

Opinion of the Bench

  • The court is in favour of checking the FIR contents to verify the charges on perusal of State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lala Singh. All things considered, the petitioner does not appear to have committed any offence under Sections 298, 153A, and 505(2) of the IPC.

Final Decision

  • The court quashed all three FIRs and consequent proceedings.

Julia Anna Joseph, an undergraduate student at the School of Law, Christ University, prepared this case summary during her internship with The Cyber Blog India in January/February 2022.