“In a democracy, every citizen has the right to voice his/her opinion freely and criticize the functioning of the government. However, the same should be done in a decent manner and unparliamentary language should not be adopted,” said the Punjab and Haryana High Court after granting bail to a resident of Punjab who allegedly went live on Facebook and criticized the government’s functioning during lockdown. He was booked for sedition. The observation was made by the single bench of Justice Sudhir Mittal, while deciding the bail plea of Jasbir alias Jasvir Singh, a resident of Hoshiarpur, Punjab, reports The Indian Express.
The FIR registered against Jasbir on April 14 read, “the petitioner went live on Facebook and made statements against the unity and integrity of the nation. His statements were also aimed at causing communal disaffection. Thus, the aforementioned FIR was registered inter alia for offences of sedition, hurting religious sentiments and causing communal disaffection.” The FIR was lodged at Tanda police station, Hoshiarpur district, under sections 115, 124-A, 153-A, 505 (2), 295, 188, 269, 270, 271, 506 of IPC, section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 and section 54 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
After going through the transcript of the Facebook Live session, Justice Mittal said, “It appears that the petitioner was unhappy with the lockdown… and the way the pandemic was being handled by the Government of India as well as the Punjab government. Thus, he has criticised the functioning of the said governments. Definitely, intemperate and abusive language has been used… but the same does not amount to exciting disaffection towards the government… It also does not amount to inciting religious disaffection or disruption of communal harmony.”
The HC ordered that Jasbir be released on regular bail on his furnishing bail and surety bonds to the satisfaction of the trial court/duty magistrate concerned, as he has been in custody for six months and 14 days and the trial is not likely to be concluded at an early date, reports The Indian Express.