In the month of March, an engineer, Mohammad Mujeeb was arrested for allegedly encouraging people to spread the coronavirus, through social media. He made comments several comments on Social media platform of Facebook, such as “Let’s join hands, go out sneeze with open mouth, in public place, spread the virus” and “spread the word to end the world”.
The accused was arrested on 29th March and since then he’s in police custody. He filed a bail plea, but the petition for bail was dismissed by the Karnataka High Court, saying that ‘sovereignty& integrity of India takes precedence over the right to personal liberty.’
The petitioner has been accused of posting such comments with the intention of promoting hatredness and disharmony, to disturb the public peacefulness and to create feeling of insecurity among them on the basis of religion. The offences for which he has been arrested are punishable under Section 153A, 505, 109 and 270 of Indian Penal Code.
Section 153A IPC- Whoever promotes or attempts to promote enmity between different groups on the grounds of religion, place of birth, race, language, residence etc. and doing acts with an intention to prejudice maintenance of public harmony, will be punished with an imprisonment of up to three years plus fine.
Section 505 IPC- Whoever makes any statement, rumor or report with the intent to cause fear among the public such that any person may be induced to commit an offence against the public tranquility, will be punished with an imprisonment of up to three year or a fine or both.
Section 109 IPC- Whoever abets any offence, if the abetted act is committed in consequence of the abetment and no provision is given to punish such abetment, will be punished with the punishment of provided for the offence.
Section 270 IPC- Whoever, malignantly does an act which is likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life, will be punished with imprisonment of up to two years or fine or both.
The accused contended that the major offence of which he’s accused of, is Section 153A IPC which is punishable with maximum of three years of imprisonment. And that the he will cooperate with the investigation procedure, and hence he may be granted bail with suitable conditions.
The State has however, contended that punishment prescribed is not the sole criteria to grant bail, the nature and gravity of the offence has to be considered. He also added that there’s a clue that the accused has links with unorganized terrorist groups which requires thorough investigation and therefore, this is not the stage where bail can be granted to him.
The Karnataka High Court held that the case is not fit to grant bail, and the petition was dismissed. The single-judge bench pointed out that the petitioner is an educated man and is aware of his consequences of his acts. His contents was likely to cause disharmony and hostility to humanity. The investigation has revealed that there is incriminating materials against him. With all this the court held that bail cannot be granted. The court also said that sovereignty, fraternity and integrity of the India take precedence over Article 21.