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Meghalaya journalist Patricia Mukhim gets SC reprieve over Facebook post

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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court of India on Thursday quashed criminal proceedings against Shillong Times Editor Patricia Mukhim which was initiated over a Facebook post on violence against non-tribals in the state.

The Court allowed the appeal filed by Patricia Mukhim challenging the Meghalaya High Court order which dismissed her plea to quash the FIR. Meghalaya High Court had refused to quash criminal proceedings under Sections 153A, 500, and 505(c) of the Indian Penal Code against her.

Senior Advocate Vrinda Grover appearing on behalf of Mukhim had submitted that the entire controversy was a result of the petitioner’s Facebook post.

The plea was filed through Advocate Prasanna S. and drafted by Advocate Soutik Banerjee and contended that the Meghalaya High Court had passed an erroneous order wherein it had ignored settled precedent.

The plea has argued that the High Court’s order is ex-facie “illegal and perverse”, and that by refusing to quash the criminal proceedings, it had impugned upon the petitioner’s rights.

A complaint was made against the post by Dorbor Shnong, a community in the East Khasi Hills, on 6th July 2020, and an FIR was filed on 7th July.

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Grover alleged that the contents of Mukhim’s post were edited and words were replaced before the police and one extract was selectively placed before the police instead of the entire post.

Therefore, the petitioner was fulfilling her responsibility as a Senior Journalist and as a responsible citizen, it was contended.

Grover further contended that the intention of Patricia Mukhim’s post was not to create any communal disharmony.

She further pointed out that the post did not call upon two communities or groups, but called upon the Chief Minister and Director General of Police instead while condemning the violence against the minority community.

The petitioner has contended that being non-cognisable, offences under Section 500 and 505(c) cannot be investigated vide registration of an FIR in view of the statutory bar against such prosecution and that the entire proceedings against the Petitioner stand on a single limb, i.e. Section 143A, which is not made out against the Petitioner.

The state had however submitted that the fact that the petitioner is a well know journalist is relevant as in that case the possible and probable effect of her post could be more.

In her post, Mukhim had referenced an incident that had taken place wherein six non-tribal boys had been assaulted by 20 to 25 unidentified boys, suspected to be tribals. She had appealed to authorities and administration to take stringent action against the culprits.

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