Freedom of speech does not mean that one can go to the extent of making wild and malicious allegations

Freedom of speech does not mean that one can go to the extent of making wild and malicious allegations

Kapil Dev Vs State of Haryana

Punjab and Haryana HC

09/10/2020

CRM-M-12507-2020(O&M)

About/from the judgment:

The High Court recently made pertinent observations on the limits of permissible free speech while refusing anticipatory bail to a YouTuber who is accused of having uploaded defamatory content on his channel 'Saabka Sainik Sangharsh Committee' against a retired military officer in the rank Major from the Indian Army.

 

The Court while rejecting the bail plea, stated:

 

"Such type of accused encroaching upon the reputation, prestige, honour and status of even a common man cannot be taken lightly. Though every citizen of India has got a right to express his views in the matter but then freedom of speech does not mean that one can go to the extent of making wild and malicious allegations."

 

In his video, the YouTuber had alleged that jawans of a particular unit had been punished for failing to salute the complainant in her capacity as wife of the Unit's Commanding Officer.

 

The complainant stated that the YouTuber had used insulting and uncalled for comments against her which caused her acute mental trauma and harassment.

 

Apart from this, she asserted that the YouTuber attempted to create discontentment and rift through his doctored hate speeches against the Units of Indian Army. He also used official documents and restricted videos of activities of Army Establishments in his video, which was an act of serious breach of security affecting national interests, she submitted.

 

An Additional Sessions Judge, Ambala, had earlier rejected the YouTuber's anticipatory bail, stating that he had failed to prove any of the statements he had made against the retired Major.

 

The Additional Sessions Judge had declared the YouTuber's statements as maligning the complainant's dignity and reputation, especially because she was a retired officer herself.

 

In proceedings before the High Court, the YouTuber submitted that he had cooperated in the investigation so far. He added that many of the comments in the video were made by others and that he could not be made to suffer for them. Further, his mobile phone had also been seized, he averred.

 

The Court, however, rejected his plea, highlighting that anticipatory bail was a discretionary relief to protect innocent persons from harassment. In this case, the Judge found that there were “grave and serious allegations against the petitioner.”

 

The allegations became all the more serious because he had obtained footage and used army-material that was restricted and confidential. This had to be investigated from a national security angle as well, the Court noted.

 

"There are grave and serious allegations against the petitioner with regard to gaining access to the secret documents concerning the national security. The matter needs to be investigated from that angle also."

 

Recording that the YouTuber's custodial interrogation was necessary to ascertain his motives in uploading the video, the bail plea was dismissed.

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