MP HC: Prima Facie Case Established When Accused Remained in WhatsApp group containing objectionable content

LI Network

Published on: November 29, 2023 at 13:58 IST

The Madhya Pradesh High Court recently affirmed that a prima facie case could be established against an accused when accused did not leave a WhatsApp group containing objectionable content and continued to serve as the group administrator.

The single-judge bench, presided over by Justice Prem Narayan Singh, dismissed the accused’s petition seeking the quashing of an FIR filed under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Information Technology Act, and the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act.

The court, referring to relevant legal precedents, emphasized that Section 33 of the IPC recognizes both a series of acts and a single act as an offense. By not exiting the WhatsApp group and maintaining the role of admin, the accused could be prima facie implicated in the alleged offenses.

The charges relate to the accused being the administrator of a WhatsApp group where a nude photo of a woman, along with the national flag, was shared, leading to accusations of inciting religious sentiments.

The court stressed that during the framing of charges, it is the court’s responsibility to assess whether there are sufficient grounds to proceed against the accused.

However, it clarified that the court should not delve into evaluating or analyzing the findings to conclude the sufficiency of the evidence for conviction. The court found the trial court’s findings on the prima facie case against the accused to be sound.

Additionally, the High Court pointed out the limited jurisdiction of the court as a revisional authority and highlighted that ‘equitable considerations’ alone cannot empower the revisional court to reevaluate and pass a different order.

The court rejected the petitioner’s contention based on the FSL report, stating that such defenses are not pertinent at the stage of framing charges.

The court cited the State of Orissa v. Debendranath Padhi (2004), emphasizing that a ‘roving and fishing inquiry is impermissible’ during the framing of charges.

The court’s decision aligned with the state’s argument, emphasizing the accused’s liability for not leaving the group despite being aware of objectionable content.

The case further referenced Mohd. Imran Malik v. State of U.P. & Anr (2022) where a Section 482 Cr.P.C application was dismissed based on the petitioner’s status as a ‘group admin’ involved in sharing objectionable content.

Related Post