Meghalaya HC refuses to quash FIR against journalist Patricia Mukhim for “divisive” Facebook post

Shillong, Nov 13 : Meghalaya High Court has refused to quash a criminal case against Padma Shri-awardee journalist Patricia Mukhim for her social media post denouncing violence against non-tribals in the state.

Mukhim, who is editor of The Shillong Times newspaper, had written a Facebook post four months ago outlining the incident of assault on five non-tribal boys at a basketball ground.

In her post, she had written that the attack, “where some non-tribal youth playing basketball were assaulted with lethal weapons and are now in hospital, is unacceptable in a state with a government and a functional police force”.

According to the high court judgment, the Facebook post further said, “This continued attack on non-tribals in Meghalaya whose ancestors have lived here for decades, some having come here since the British period is reprehensible to say the least.”

Mukhim further wrote that the attackers and trouble mongers since 1979 have never been arrested and if arrested never penalised “according to law suggests that Meghalaya has been a failed state for a long time now.”

A complaint had subsequently been filed against her for creating communal tension. The state police had further lodged a criminal case against her, which Mukhim had opposed in a petition. The HC has now refused to quash the said case, deeming her Facebook post divisive.

 Court noted the following –

“On a cursory observation of the said Facebook post, what is noticed is that the author has referred to the incident which took place at Lawsohtun at the Basketball Court. There is a distinct portrayal of an alleged skirmish between two groups, one, group allegedly consisting of tribal youths and the other group consisting of non-tribal youths. 24. The author further stated that this continued attack on non-tribals in Meghalaya, whose attackers and trouble mongers have never been arrested since 1979 has resulted in Meghalaya being a failed State for a long time. Finally, the author has gone on to assuage the feelings of the non-tribals by posing a question as to why they should live in perpetual fear in their own state when they have a right to call Meghalaya their state as the indigenous tribal does. 25. Again, on going through the said Facebook post and as observed above, 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 153 A (a) IPC as it apparently seeks to promote disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between two communities”

It can be mentioned here that Supreme court day before yesterday granting bail to Republic Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami and two others in a case of alleged abetment to suicide, said that High courts have failed to protect personal liberty of individuals, forcing citizens to approach the top court for relief.

“We are travelling through the path of destruction of liberty. You may not like his ideology. Left to myself, I will not watch his channel. But citizens are sent to jail, high courts don’t grant bail. We have to send a strong message” court noted. 

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