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Magistrate’s Order Directing FIR Against Kangana Ranaut for Tweets on Farmers Protest Quashed by Karnataka High Court

Magistrate’s Order Directing FIR Against Kangana Ranaut for Tweets on Farmers Protest Quashed by Karnataka High Court
An order which was passed by a Magistrate in the State directing the police to register an FIR against Kangana Ranaut over controversial tweets on Farmers Protest was quashed by the Karnataka High Court on Thursday (March 25, 2021).

The order was set aside by the Single Judge Bench of Justice HP Sandesh. He said that the Magistrate acted mechanically without properly examining if any offences were made out. Now the matter is remitted back to the Magistrate in order to consider it freshly. 

Justice Sandesh oberserved in the order, “...nowhere the Magistrate made any reference that he has perused averments in the complaint and whether it amounts to an offence. Matter has to be remitted back to trail court to look into whether averments made in the complainant amount to offence.”

The order was passed at Tumkur, under Section 156(3) of the CrPC on a complaint of Advocate Ramesh Naik who had alleged how Kangana comparing protesting farmers to the terrorists was promoting enmity. He had sought an FIR against her under Sections 153A, 504, 108 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. 

During the hearing, Justice Sandesh reprimanded Kangana, thereby rebuking her for the words in the tweet. He said the following words to her Counsel, Rizwan Siddique "Who gave you the power persons who support farmers bill are terrorist? If same words are uttered against you what will you going to do.. Celebrities while making statements should first hold their tongue.” 

Kangana’s impugned tweet reads, “People who spread misinformation and rumours about CAA that caused riots are the same people who are now spreading misinformation about Farmers bill and causing terror in the nation, they are Terrorists. You very well know what I said but simply like to spread misinformation".

Arguments in Ranaut’s Petition

In her petition before the High Court of Karnataka, Ranaut claimed that the tweet was written with absence of an intention to promote enmity and was instead done "solely with the intention to caution her followers"

The petition pertaining to this point read, "Lok Sabha on September 17, 2020 passed the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill l, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on price assurance and Farm Service Bill, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020, all of which got the President's Assent on September 27, 2020. As against these enactments there was immense opposition shown by the general public to the extent that farmers across the country collectively called for nationwide protest and other such measures.”

Additionally, "She strongly believed that this furore was being caused by the mass spreading of false information about the said enactments by various invested groups, leading to general unrest, strikes and protest over various parts of the country." 

It says, "The petitioner drew similarity between the said situation and the situation when the Central Government had enacted the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 which had led to protest and strikes in various parts of the nation. The petitioner formed an informed opinion on the same and believes that the reason for such strikes to have broke out then against the Citizenship Amendment Act as well as now against the Farmers Bill's is because of the misinformation being spread by certain vested groups, aiming at misleading the general citizenry of India and causing social unrest.”

The petition states how the complaint filed by Respondent no. 2 has not specified the manner in which the tweet pertains to satisfying the ingredients of Sections 153 and 153A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

It has been further said that, "Essence of the offence under section 153A is promoting enmity between two different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence etc and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony. Merely inciting the feelings of one community or group without any reference to any other community or group cannot attract the provisions of Section 153A."

It was then said, "Bare reading of the tweet of the petitioner dated 21-09-2020, it becomes amply clear that the petitioner neither has the intention nor has she committed the overt act required to establish an offence under Section 153A. It is submitted that the words used in the tweet do not either directly or indirectly, promote enmity between different groups on any grounds and do not do or promote the doing of acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.

It was therefore added, "Not only is the said tweet being misread, but meaning and intention are being accorded to it in subterfuge to create misconception in the minds of the general public." 

It has also been stated in the petition that, "The tweet dated 21-09-2020 is just a statement of her opinion and there is no intention of provoking any one in any nature. The language used or the manner of expressing such opinion cannot in any manner be said to be provocative of any communal or group disparity. Such expression is protected by the Freedom of Speech and Expression guaranteed by Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India.

Other Grounds Raised

Other grounds raised in the petition claim that the impugned tweet cannot be said to incite riots or disharmony between any groups, identifiable or not. 

It also claimed in the Petition that Complainant no. 2 was making an attempt to give his own shade to the interpretation of communal misunderstanding to the opinion of the Petitioner. He misunderstood the simple language used by Ranaut. 

Siddique also claimed in the Petition how it is Complainant no. 2 is instead trying to create hatred amongst the people and he hasn’t approached the court with clean hands. 

It was lastly said that the Private Complaints and the FIR are contrary to the facts and therefore, there is absence of prima facie evidence to proceed against the Petitioner. Henceforth, the order passed by the Court dated October 12, 2020 is not sustainable in the eyes of the law. 


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