Meghalaya HC refuses to set aside criminal case against journalist Patricia Mukhim

Meghalaya High Court has refused to quash a criminal case filed against Shillong-based senior journalist Patricia Mukhim for a July 4 Facebook post as it “apparently seeks to promote disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between two communities”.

The Facebook post had been written in connection with the July 3 attack on a group of youth playing basketball at Lawsohtun, Shillong, by another group of 20-25 unidentified youth, resulting in injuries. Seven persons were arrested.

Police registered a criminal case at Laban police station accusing Mukhim of inciting communal tension between tribal and non-tribal communities and defaming a traditional village institution of the Khasis, the complainant.

The police had also issued a notice under CrPC Section 41A on July 9 requiring Patricia Mukhim to appear before the investigating officer within seven days of receipt of the notice. The journalist then moved the court with a prayer to quash and set aside the July 6 complaint.

However, on November 10, Justice W Diengdoh of Meghalaya High Court, in his order, held that the Facebook post had “sought to create a divide to the cordial relationship between the tribals and non-tribals living in the state of Meghalaya, even alluding to the role of the state machinery as being biased in this regard”.

“…What can be established herein is that prima facie, it appears that a case under Section 153A IPC is made out against the petitioner herein,” the court added.

The court said: “What can be deduced is that there is an attempt to make a comparison between tribals and non-tribals vis-à-vis their rights and security and the alleged tipping of the balance in favour of one community over the other.”

“This, in the opinion of this court, would fall on the mischief of Section 153A (a) IPC as it apparently seeks to promote disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between two communities,” the order said.

Section 153A of the IPC deals with promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc, and doing acts prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony.

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