MADURAI: The Madras high court on Thursday quashed yet another FIR registered against YouTuber Maridhas by the Tirunelveli city police in 2020 for posting a video making remarks linking a Tablighi Jamaat meeting to the spread of Covid-19.
Justice G R Swaminathan observed that a careful reading of the written text of the video indicates that the petitioner felt alarmed by the incident. This court can take judicial notice of the fact that the incident came under bitter and sharp criticism in the entire media, during the early days when the pandemic struck. Therefore, a slightly exaggerated comment can also be accepted.
The judge observed that in no part of his speech in the video, the petitioner had questioned the religious belief of Muslims. His attack is only on the irresponsible conduct of the attendees of the congregation.
The intention of the petitioner was that he called upon the attendees who took part in the congregation to go to hospital and have themselves checked. In fact, the government itself started to carry out contact tracing and wanted to identify the members who took part in the congregation, said the judge.
The judge observed that a sharp criticism against an organisation would not attract the ingredients of offences mentioned in the FIR. Hence, the judge held that the registration of FIR itself was illegal and quashed it.
The Melapalayam police registered a case against Maridhas for a controversial video made by him. In the video, the right wing social media influencer linked a Tablighi Jamaat meeting held in Delhi in March 2020 to the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country. He called Tablighi Jamaat a new form of terrorism. The case was registered following the complaint lodged by Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam functionary Mohammed Kadhar Meeran on April 4, 2020.
Maridhas was booked under sections 292(A) (publishing grossly indecent or scurrilous matter or matter intended for blackmail), 295(A) (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) and 505(ii) (statement creating or promoting enmity or ill-will between classes) of the Indian Penal Code and 67 (publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form) of the Information Technology Act.
The Madurai city cybercrime police had registered a case and arrested Maridhas on December 9 for tweeting ‘Is Tamil Nadu turning into Kashmir under DMK rule,’ linking the IAF chopper crash in Coonoor that claimed the lives of Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and 13 others. The case was quashed by the HC on December 14.