Amish Devgan v. Union of India

This was a petition filed by Amish Devgan, a journalist and managing editor-in-chief of News 18, under Article 32 of the Constitution to quash FIRs arising from the same cause of action in different states. The contention is against calling Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, a revered saint of India, as a terrorist and a robber on live debate. It was contended that Petitioner did this deliberately to incite feelings of animosity and hatred against the Muslim Community.

Petitioner later apologized and claimed that the words were uttered inadvertently and by mistake where he confused Khilji with Khwaja Chishti. However, the words were repeated and reference to his certain acts was also made in the debate. The FIRs around the country allege offences under Sections 153A, 295A, and 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code, and Section 66-F of the Information Technology Act, 2000. Apart from the quashing of FIRs arising under the aforementioned sections, the court also questioned the maintainability of this relief when there is already presence of relief under Section 482 of CrPC in the powers of High Court and whether there is a by-pass of procedure.

The defence of slight harm by Petitioner was refused by the court on grounds that it was meant for offence causing almost negligible harm. The Bench discussed extensively on hate speech citing precedents, and the jurisprudence of France and America in particular to analyse the alleged offence. The Bench distinguished between free speech and hate speech. The Bench also shed light on the need for criminalising hate speech to promote social harmony.

The Bench did not quash the FIR at this preliminary stage; rather transferred it all to the station where the first FIR was filed and gave interim relief against arrest to Petitioner only on the condition that he co-operated with the arrest.

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Kirit P. Mehta School of Law Publications