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Supreme Court Quashes FIR on Meghalaya Journalist’s Facebook Post Calling for Action on Violence on Non-Tribal Boys

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Credits: Anupam Bordoloi Twitter handle

The Supreme Court on Thursday quashed an FIR filed against Patricia Mukhim, the editor of Shillong Times, over a post that she had written on Facebook in July 2020 about an incident that incited violence against non-tribal boys in Meghalaya, Live Law reported on Thursday.

The case was heard by Justices L Nageswara and S Ravindra Bhat.

According to the court order available with Live Law, Mukhim’s Facebook post came in the aftermath of the incident that occurred in Lawsohtun, in East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya, on July 3, 2020. About 25 unidentified boys assaulted a group of youngsters who were playing basketball, with iron rods and sticks. While some suspects were arrested and a probe was conducted, a warning was issued to not breach communal peace.

Following this incidence, Mukhim wrote on Facebook, calling for an action by the area officials.

“We hope that this will not be yet another case lost in the Police files. We want action. Criminal elements have no community. They must be dealt with as per the law of the land. Why should our Non-Tribal brethren continue to live in perpetual fear in their own state? Those born and brought up here have as much right to call Meghalaya their State as the indigenous Tribal does. Period,” Mukhim’s post concluded.

On July 6, 2020, the headman and the secretary of a traditional village institution Dorbar Shnong of Lawsohtun filed a complaint with the superintendent of police, alleging that the Facebook post “incited communal tension which might instigate a communal conflict”. After an FIR was registered, Mukhim filed a criminal petition in the High Court of Meghalaya for quashing it.

Counsel Vrinda Grover, who appeared for Mukhim, said that the post does not promote enmity and merely called out for an action. The high court, in accordance with the officials, had said that Mukhim’s post would “arouse feelings of enmity and hatred between two communities” and dismissed the journalist’s plea to quash the FIR.

As a citizen of a democracy I believe the rule of law must be upheld at all times without any hint of arbitrariness. The…

Posted by Patricia Mukhim on Thursday, 25 March 2021

However, on Thursday, the Supreme Court permitted Mukhim’s appeal challenging the Meghalaya High Court that dismissed her plea to quash the FIR. The judges observed that the journalist’s post merely pointed out the “apathy” shown by the chief minister of Meghalaya, director general of police and Dorbor Shnong of the area.

“The Facebook post read in its entirety pleads for equality of non-tribals in the State of Meghalaya. In our understanding, there was no intention on the part of the Appellant to promote class/community hatred,” the Supreme Court concluded in its order and set aside the order passed by the Meghalaya High Court.

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