Bombay HC: Right to speech isn't absolute

06:48 AM Sep 12, 2020 | Narsi Benwal

Observing that freedom of speech and expression were not absolute, the Bombay High Court on Friday refused to grant interim protection from arrest to a woman, who had posted objectionable content against Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and his son Aaditya.
A bench of Justices Sambhaji Shinde and Makarand Karnik made the observation while denying interim protection to Sunaina Holey, who has been named as an accused in three different FIRs registered at the BKC, Azad Maidan and Palghar police stations.

Holey had moved the bench through her counsel Abhinav Chandrachud, seeking protection from arrest and also for quashing the three FIRs, one of which was filed by Rohan Chavan, leader of the Shiv Sena's youth wing.
As an interim relief, Holey sought exemption from the summons issued by the Azad Maidan police station and also the Tulinj police station (at Palghar) asking her to appear before them. Her counsel Chandrachud told the judges that his client must be given protection from arrest, as she had earlier been arrested by the cyber crime police at BKC.


Prosecutor J P Yagnik, however, assured that Holey would not be arrested for two weeks provided she cooperated with the police investigating the case, by appearing before them.


The bench accepted the statement and asked Holey to appear before police, but denied granting any protection. However, Justice Shinde has specifically said that Holey could move the bench if any of her fundamental rights were violated before the next date of the hearing.
During the course of the hearing, Chandrachud highlighted that his client's right to speech and expression was infringed, as for every tweet or post by her, she was facing a new FIR.

"This case has attained a political colour, since every tweet of hers invites a new FIR. My client is compelled to run from pillar to post to protect her self," Chandrachud submitted.

The judges, while interrupting Chandrachud, reminded him that no right is absolute. "Let's not forget that the right to free speech is not an absolute one. Perhaps, citizens are under the impression that every right, especially the one for free speech is absolute and has no restrictions," Justice Shinde observed.

The bench has now posted the matter for hearing on September 29, with a directive to the state to file an affidavit detailing the status of the probe and its say on whether to quash the FIRs or not.

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