Dear Students, this is first in the series of Model Answers that we’ll try and share with your through this platform. Try to analyse the method with which the legal issues are to be analysed and conclusions drawn. It be noted that, more than the end result/answer to the question, it is the thinking process that is important. This is what the answer attempts to demonstrate. Most of these questions can be decided either way, and there is no straight right or wrong answer. What matters is, the ability to give rational, legally (and common sensically) sound reasons and legal justification for the conclusions reached.
‘X’ times, a leading English daily, prints an article aimed at creating hatred and enmity between two groups of people i.e a capitalist and the labour class. The article read : “B and the Chief Minister of the State who were good friends have conspired together and acquired 100 hectares of fertile land belonging to the local farmers for special economic zone. To persuade and coerce the farmers not to challenge the acquisition ‘B’ got burnt the houses of farmers and their standing crops through his henchmen. The promises of ‘B’ that he will employ the local youth is also false as ‘B’ is getting youth trained from the constituency of the Chief Minister who would be employed in various Industries to come up in the SEZ area”.
Can the reporter, editor, printer and published of ‘X Times’ be charged for offence under Section 153A IPC. Give reasons.
The factual position being admitted, let us straight away cut to the chase, and examine whether a case under section 153A IPC is made out or not. The outcome will depend on the answer to the following questions :
- Whether the impugned article has the effect of promoting enmity between different groups on the grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste, community or any other ground ? ; and
- Whether this act is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different groups or castes or communities if the acts disturb the public tranquility ?;
In the factual matrix, both the issues are decided in favour of the accused and no offence is made out, for the following reasons :-
- Section 153A IPC was enacted to check communal and fissiparous tendencies. Therefore, the ‘intention to promote feelings of enmity and hatred’ is conditio sine qua non for liability u/s 153A IPC. There is nothing on record to prove requisite mens rea on the part of the functionaries of ‘X Times’. The article, though strongly worded appears to be a legitimate journalistic exercise, compatible with the constitutional right and freedom of press. ‘B’ if aggrieved by these imputations, and if they are infact found to be scurrilous or defamatory, has to have his remedy elsewhere.
- Secondly, the section is intended to apply with respect to a definite and ascertainable class of people. The class contemplated under the section should be capable of being clearly defined and separable. Seen in this light, ‘capitalists’ or ‘labour class’ do not constitute classes or communities within the meaning of this Section. These words lack the certainty required and overlapping inter-se these categories cannot be ruled out. (Reference in this regard may be had to the judgment in Maniben Kara, (1932) 34 Nom LT 1642). Therefore, the impugned article of the accused persons cannot be said to promote enmity or disharmony amongst two groups/communities/classes as such.
- Furthermore, in order to attract liability under this section, the article has to be read as a whole, and stray extracts, which might be strongly worded, cannot be read shorn out of context. The prosecution has not led in evidence the entire text of the article; In absence of such evidence, it is hard to ascribe the requisite intention to the accused persons. The court has to be particularly mindful in cases like the present one, where attribution of liability can have grave ramifications for the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and expression, which also has implicit within it, the concomitant citizen’s right to information.
- Furthermore, the effect of the words must be judged from the standards of reasonable, strong-minded, firm and courageous men and not those of weak and vacillating minds. So read, it cannot be said, by any stretch of imagination, that the contents of the article have the potentiality of leading to violence, enmity or hatred amongst reasonable men belonging to either group.