The Allahabad high court has quashed a First Information Report (FIR) filed against a Twitter user who allegedly remarked that Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath had transformed the administration of the state into “jungle Raj.”
“Expressing dissent on law and order situation in the state is a hallmark of a constitutional liberal democracy like ours and the same is constitutionally protected under Article 19 of the Constitution (right of freedom of speech and expression),” the court said in its order,which was passed on November 23.
A division bench comprising justice Pankaj Naqvi and justice Vivek Agarwal allowed a writ petition filed by Yashwant Singh, who allegedly made the remarks against UP CM on his Twitter handle. It quashed an FIR dated August 2, registered against the petitioner under Section 500 (defamation) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 66-D (offence of cheating by personation by using computer resource) of the Information Technology Act, 2008 at Bhognipur police station in Rama Bai Nagar district of Uttar Pradesh.
The FIR alleged that Singh used his Twitter handle to remark that the chief minister of the state had transformed the state into a “jungle raj”. It also referred to abductions, demands for ransom and murders, the FIR said.
The petitioner challenged the FIR, contending that he had been well within his constitutional right to freedom of speech under Article 19. Mere dissent does not amount to criminality and the FIR has been lodged only to coerce him to stop expressing dissent against the state government, the petitioner argued.
Quashing the FIR and the consequential proceedings against the petitioner, the court said: “We, after analysing the above provisions regarding allegations made in the FIR, do not find even remotely a commission of offence under Section 66-D, as the said provision relates to cheating by personation. It is not the case of prosecution that while committing the overt act, the petitioner either tweeted using other’s Twitter handle…No offence under Section 66-D of IT Act is made out. Insofar as Section 500 IPC (defamation) is concerned, the same is also not made out, as the alleged tweet cannot be said to fall within the mischief of defamation.”