NAGPUR: Rejecting a Washim man’s plea to quash FIR against him under the Atrocities Act, the Nagpur bench of Bombay high court called on citizens to ‘behave responsibly’ while uploading status on WhatsApp.

“The very purpose of WhatsApp status is to convey something to his contacts. It is nothing but a mode of communication with known persons. One puts up the status to get a reaction and most of them crave for support. Nowadays, people are checking WhatsApp status now and then. One should behave with a sense of responsibility while communicating something to others,” a division bench comprising justices Vinay Joshi and Valmiki Menezes said.
Stating that they had examined the entire material on record, the bench pointed out that the contents of the police report as well as the result found by the complainant were as per the Google search on the petitioner’s WhatsApp Status.

“Apparently, the WhatsApp status instigates others to do Google search and read what the applicant intends. It can be a picture or video of what you are doing, thinking or something you have seen. By status you share end-to-end in encrypted text, photo, video and updates that disappear after 24 hours,” the judges said.
A complaint was lodged against 27-year-old petitioner Kishor Landkar on March 23, stating that the latter had put up a WhatsApp status, where he posed a query to be searched on Google. He had even claimed that anyone searching for his post on Google would get a shocking result.
When complainant Ganesh Bhagat searched the contents of Landkar’s status on Google, he noted objectionable material amounting to outraging the religious feeling of a particular class and therefore, he lodged a complaint with Washim’s Mangrulpir police station.
The police booked Landkar under Sections 295-A of IPC, Section 3(1)(v) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (Atrocities Act), and Section 67-A of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
The petitioner moved the HC through counsel SS Dhengale praying for quashing of FIR under Section 482 of CrPC, contending that he did not deliberately display the status to outrage the feeling of any class.
According to him, WhatsApp status can only be seen by persons who have saved his mobile number. He argued that neither the provisions of the Atrocities Act nor the IT Act would apply in this case.
Stressing that the petitioner cannot shed his primary responsibility by claiming limited circulation of his WhatsApp status, the judges said there is no justification for him to display it. “Contents of FIR prima facie disclose his deliberate and malicious intention to insult the feelings of a group. There is no denial that he has kept the WhatsApp status as alleged in the FIR. The investigation is in embryo stage and therefore, this is not a fit case to invoke our inherent powers,” they ruled.

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