It is not an offence for any person to post grievance on a page created by a law enforcement agency on a social networking site as such an interface is meant to help the public, the Supreme Court has held.
The court quashed an FIR against a Bangalore couple who had failed to get relief from Karnataka High Court after they were booked by Bangalore Traffic Police for posting their grievance over misbehavior by a cop on a Facebook page created by it.
“As far as the comments posted on Facebook are concerned, it appears that it is a public forum meant for helping the public and the act of appellants in posting a comment on Facebook may not attract ingredients of criminal intimidation in Section 503 IPC.
“As noted earlier, the page created by the traffic police on Facebook was a forum for the public to put forth their grievances.
In our considered view, the appellants might have posted the comment online under the bona fide belief that it was within permissible limits,” said a bench of justices V Gopala Gowda and R Banumathi.
The apex court set aside a Karnataka High Court order which had dismissed their plea against an FIR in which they were named for offences of criminal intimidation and assault aimed at preventing a police officer from discharging his duty.
The High Court had dismissed their plea on the ground that it was premature and filed before the completion of investigation.
Manik Taneja and wife Sakshi Jawa met with a road accident on June 13, 2013. One of the passengers, who was travelling by the auto, sustained injuries and was admitted in hospital for treatment. The matter was, however, settled amicably.
A constable, who was present at the time of the incident, directed the couple to meet his senior officer at his office. When they met the officer concerned, he allegedly misbehaved and threatened them.
Aggrieved by the misbehaviour, the couple posted comments on the Bangalore traffic police’s Facebook page and also forwarded an email complaining about the harassment meted out to them.
Later, the police inspector filed a complaint regarding the posting of the comment on the Facebook by the couple and subsequently an FIR was registered against them for offences punishable under Sections 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of IPC.
Coming to their rescue, the apex court said, “Mere expression of any words without any intention to cause alarm would not be sufficient to attract ingredients of criminal intimidation in Section 503 of IPC.”
As regards the charges under Section 353 of IPC, the bench said that based on the material available on record, it appeared that no force was used by the couple to commit any such offence.
“There is absolutely nothing on record to show that the appellants either assaulted the respondents or used criminal force to prevent the second respondent from discharging his official duty. Taking the uncontroverted allegations, in our view, that the ingredients of the offence under Section 353 IPC are not made out,” it said.