Allahabad HC refuses to quash case against man for alleged derogatory Facebook posts against PM Modi, Indian Army

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The allegations were that one Sahil Mehra, a native of Kiratpur, had posted disrespectful content against the Indian Army on his Facebook account, potentially demoralizing the military, and had used disrespectful language towards the Prime Minister

The Allahabad High Court has recently declined to quash a chargesheet filed against a man accused of posting derogatory posts about Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Indian army on Facebook.

The bench of Justice JJ Munir asserted that the statements, when considered in their entirety, appeared to be divisive and could instigate insecurity within communities. The court maintained that these statements may induce unlawful actions against public tranquility or the State.

"These, indeed, appear to be publication and circulation of statements made with an intent to incite one class or community of persons to commit an offence against another class or community. Prima facie, given the totality of the context, the statements are divisive of the community and tend to promote insecurity in the minds of one community against another. These also tend to create fear or alarm amongst the public that may induce one Section of the public to commit offences against public tranquility or the State," the order passed by the court on November 24 read.

The applicant, Sahil Mehra, had been charged in 2019 under Section 505 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 66 of the Information Technology (IT) Act. The allegations were that Mehra had posted disrespectful content against the Indian Army on his Facebook account, potentially demoralizing the military, and had used disrespectful language towards the Prime Minister.

The informant contended that Mehra's posts had fueled animosity in society, leading to tension between different areas of the town. Following an investigation, the police submitted a chargesheet under Section 505 IPC and Section 66 IT Act. The magistrate acknowledged the charges and summoned the accused to face trial. Seeking relief, Mehra approached the high court to quash the chargesheet.

The high court summoned that case diary which included printouts of the screenshots relating to the offending facebook posts.

While making the abovementioned observations, cour made it clear that these remarks were based on prima facie impression on a reading of the statement and were in no way a finding or expression of opinion on the merits of the matter, which must be tried in accordance with law.

It, however, pointed out that there was one statement relating to some dead bodies etc., which might had some kind of bearing on the morale of the Armed Forces, but that would require a more detailed probe.

"It is only prima facie that we are convinced that an offence not worth quashing the impugned charge-sheet in the exercise of our jurisdiction under Section 482 Cr.P.C. is made out insofar as the case under Section 505 IPC is concerned," the court, therefore, held. 

However, so far as the offence under Section 66 of the IT Act was concerned, court said that it did not appear to be prima facie made out, because none of the acts in relation to a computer or computer system, like damaging it, disrupting it or causing denial of access to any person etc., as envisaged under Section 43 of the I.T. Act, were prima facie disclosed.

Therefore, let notice limited to the offence charged under Section 66 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 issue to the opposite parties returnable on 14.12.2023, the court ordered. 

The matter will be next heard on December 14, 2023. 

Case Title: Sahil Mehra vs. State Of U.P. And 2 Others