SC notice to Meghalaya High Court in ST Editor’s case

NEW DELHI, Jan 13: In a significant development, the Supreme Court today issued notice to the Meghalaya High Court on a petition by Editor of The Shillong Times, Patricia Mukhim, against the dismissal of her plea to quash criminal proceedings against her for a Facebook post decrying violence against non-tribal people in the state.
The criminal proceedings pertain to a Facebook post made by the veteran journalist seeking action by the state against an attack on some non-tribal boys in Meghalaya. For the said post, a case was filed against Mukhim alleging the commission of offences under Sections 153-A, 500 and 505 of the Indian Penal Code i.e. for allegedly inciting communal tensions and for defamation.
The Bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao, Indu Malhotra and Vineet Saran has now sought response from the state government in Mukhim’s plea and has fixed the hearing on February 5.
On July 4, 2020, Mukhim said Meghalaya has been a failed state because of continued attacks on non-tribal people and that the attackers and trouble-mongers have never been arrested since 1979. Mukhim was referring to an attack on a group of non-tribal boys by 20-25 unidentified youths at a basketball court in Lawsohtun locality on July 3.
The plea before the Supreme Court states that Mukhim is facing persecution for “speaking the truth and seeking enforcement of rule of law against perpetrators of hate crime, in exercise of her fundamental right as guaranteed under Article 19 (1)(a) of the Constitution of India”.
The senior journalist avers that plain reading of the Mukhim’s Facebook post makes it clear that the intent and purpose of this post “is to appeal for impartial enforcement of rule of law; equal treatment before the law of all citizens; condemnation of targeted violence against members of a minority group; an end to impunity for violence and thereby ensure peace and harmony between communities and groups”.
Mukhim also reminded the Dorbar Shnong (traditional village governing body of the Khasi tribe) of the locality of its obligatory role of keeping vigil and helping to apprehend the culprits, the plea submits. Following this police registered a criminal case against her on the basis of a complaint and asked her to appear before the investigating officer.
Mukhim had earlier approached the Meghalaya High Court for relief. But in November, the High Court declined to quash the criminal case, opining that, prima facie, the offence of mischief under IPC Section 153A had been made out against Mukhim as her post “apparently seeks to promote disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between two communities”.
Challenging the ruling before the Supreme Court, Mukhim states that the offences under Section 500 and 505(c) IPC, being non-cognizable, cannot be investigated and prosecuted vide registration of an FIR in view of the statutory bar against such prosecution.
“The entire proceedings against the petitioner stands on a single limb – Section 153A, which it is humbly submitted is not made out against the petitioner, as the same is unsustainable in law and misconceived on facts,” reads the plea further.
Mukhim, a Padmashri awardee, states that the motivation and intent of her post, as apparent from its plain reading, is to ensure that through the legal process, social harmony is maintained.

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