Saturday, August 26, 2023

The ‘Fascist BJP, Down’ slogan not an offence: Madras HC quashes FIR against academic

New Delhi: The Madras high court has quashed a first information report against a woman who raised slogans against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at an airport in 2018; that too in a plane which had Tamil Nadu BJP chief Tamilisai Soundararajan in it. This judgment was delivered on August 16. Details of the judgement were reported on today by LiveLaw.

The court, according to a report in LiveLaw, has held that raising a slogan of “fascist BJP, down” is not an offence and called it a trivial matter.

The accused was a research scholar Lois Sofia, who had raised the slogan at the Thoothukudi airport and in the flight which had Soundararajan, who is now governor of Telangana and Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry. Videos showed Tamilisai Soundararajan even shouting at Sofia when she raised the slogans at the airport. Sofia was arrested soon afterwards and was granted bail the next day.

The court, reported Deccan Herald, was hearing a petition filed by Sofia in 2019 through which he sought the quashing of the FIR filed against her by Thoothukudi police in 2018.

Lois Sofia was booked under sections 290 (punishment for public nuisance in cases not otherwise provided for) and 75 (1) (C) of the Madras City Police Act, DH reported. The latter pertains to the penalty for drunkenness or riotous or indecent behaviour in public places.

These sections are both non-cognisable offences. However, as the court pointed out on August 16, a Section 505(1)(b) of the IPC – which is a cognisable offence and can thus alter the case into a cognisable one – was later hand-written into the printed FIR even though there was no mention of non cognisable offences in the complaint.

During the hearings, present BJP Tamil Nadu and intervenor K. Annamalai questioned why the police had failed to register a case under the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Civil Aviation Act 1982, the court said turned down the possibility citing the fact that mere uttering of a word is not likely to endanger the safety of an aircraft.

Significantly, Justice P Dhanabal of the Madurai bench further said that there was nothing in Sofia’s actions which can warrant the invocation of public nuisance under section 290 of the Indian Penal Code, which pertains to public nuisance.

“The First Information Report and the charge sheet discloses that the petitioner only raised slogan as ‘Fascist B.J.P’ and those words do not constitute any offence and it is trivial in nature  Therefore as discussed supra, the charge sheet in S.T.C.No. 324 of 2018 on the file of the learned Judicial Magistrate No.III, Thoothukudi is liable to be quashed,” the order says, according to LiveLaw.

The court also said that due procedure under Section 155 of the Criminal Procedure Code was not followed by police after the plea for her remand under Section 505 was rejected.

26/08/2023 Sabrang India

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