On Tuesday, the Meghalaya High Court refused to quash a criminal case lodged against the journalist Patricia Mukhim over her Facebook post about ‘continued attacks on non-tribals’ in the state.
According to the reports, the Meghalaya High Court bench comprising of Justice W Diengdoh, taking note of the Facebook Post, observed that the post made by Mukhim sought to create a divide to the cordial relationship between the tribal and non-tribal living in the State of Meghalaya.
Patricia Mukhim, who is the editor of Shillong Times, had written a post on Facebook condemning the attacks against non-tribals on July 3 by a few masked miscreants in Lawsohtun village. A group of miscreants had attacked five Bengali youth near a basketball court with iron rods and sticks.
Tribal council filed a complaint against Mukhim’s Facebook post
In her Facebook post, Mukhim had reportedly criticised the Lawsohtun village council for failing to identify the “murderous elements” in the assault case after the police had not made any arrests in the case. She had urged Chief Minister Conrad Sangma to not let this be “another case lost in the police files” while demanding action against tribals. “Criminal elements have no community. They must be dealt with as per the law of the land,” Mukhim had written.
Angered by Mukhim’s Facebook post, the Lawsohtun village council in Meghalaya had filed a complaint against her, alleging that her comments on Facebook about the attack on five boys in Lawsohtun village could incite communal tension. In the complaint, Lawsohtun village head Lurshai Shylla had said Mukhim mentioned the 1979 conflict between tribals and non-tribals in her Facebook post.
Shylla had alleged that Mukhim’s comments were reported by some media houses in West Bengal in an attempt to give it a communal colour. It has put all Khasis outside the state in extreme danger, the complainant had added.
Following that, the Meghalaya police had registered a criminal case under Section 153A/500/505C IPC against her and also issued a notice under Section 41 A CrPC asking her to appear before them.
I had expressed only my concern on handling the case, says Patricia Mukhia
However, Patricia Mukhia filed a petition in the Meghalaya High Court contending that she had only expressed concern on the handling of the case in question by the police and has only expressed the hope that this will not be another case lost in the police files but must be dealt with as per the law of the land.
Hearing the petition, the Meghalaya High Court dismissed her petition saying, “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.”
It added, “Again, ongoing 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.
The High Court said that Mukhia’ Facebook post 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. The court also observed that S.153 A (1) (a) is not just confined to the promotion of feelings of enmity etc. on grounds of religion only but takes in promotion of such feelings on other grounds as well such as race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community.
Patricia Mukhim had hailed Arnab Goswami’s arrest
Ironically, Patricia Mukhim, who is currently in the dock for making an ‘objectionable’ post on Facebook, had refused to condemn Maharashtra government’s witch-hunt against her fellow journalist colleague and had in fact gone on to extent to say that Arnab Goswami deserved to be arrested.
Soon after the arrest of Arnab Goswami by the Mumbai Police, Patricia Mukhim had taken to Twitter to not only to insinuate that Arnab Goswami was not a journalist but also he deserved no rights as he had ‘deprived someone else of their freedom’.
Responding to one person named Aditya Sharma, who was pontificating on why Arnab Goswami’s arrest need not be condemned due to his nature of journalism, Mukhim had said she completely agreed with Sharma’s views to state, “Rights cannot be claimed by depriving someone else of their freedom”.
According to Patricia, Arnab was not a journalist and he was not entitled to the right to be protected against threat and intimidation.
Last year, Patricia Mukhim was also convicted by the Meghalaya High Court in a contempt case for her article in “Shillong Times” under the caption “When Judges judge for themselves”. Reportedly, in the article, she had criticised the series of orders passed by Justice Sen in suo moto proceedings for enhancing the retiral benefits of judges. However, later this order was stayed by the Supreme Court.