Nagpur: The Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court has quashed criminal prosecution of a fourth year engineering student initiated due to a sarcastic and humorous post against Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) during pandemic.
The High Court found nothing objectionable or criminal in the post uploaded by a student Rahul Taksande on his Facebook page ‘Lit Memes Nagpur’. However, a division bench comprising Justice Vinay Deshpande and Justice Amit Borkar cautioned the student to desist from posting anything, which may offend any provision of law having penal consequences.
To protest against high-handed approach of NMC during the first wave of COVID-19 and to take a dig at tall claim about total cleaning of Nag river made by civic body last year, Taksande had posted, “Due to reduction in pollution and due to reduction in effusion of sewage water, the water of the Nag River can be supplied as drinking water in the City of Nagpur.”
Infuriated by this post, then Municipal Commissioner Tukaram Mundhe had directed registration of FIR against the student. Accordingly, offence punishable under Sections 188, 500 and 505(1)(b) of the Indian Penal Code, Section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, and Section 140 of the Maharashtra Police Act was registered at Sadar Police station.
NMC alleged that the said page had spread false rumours creating fear in the society and there was chance of commission of offence by the public. The prosecution also claimed that petitioner-student had uploaded the said post, and justified registration of offence.
The petitioner maintained that his Facebook page was meant to share jokes, memes, satire and humorous posts and was neither a news reporting page nor to post informative content. The page was meant only for the entertainment of Facebook users.
The High Court, after examining each of the sections clamped against the petitioner, found that even if allegations in the FIR were taken at face value, no offence as alleged was made out. The post was not in disobedience of any lawful order, or spread panic, or put anybody’s life in danger, the High Court noted while quashing the impugned FIR. At the same time, the High Court cautioned the petitioner not to post anything which might land him in legal trouble.
Adv Atharva Manohar appeared for the petitioner. APP Vinod Thakre (State), Adv Rohan Chhabra (NMC) represented respondents.