HC stays case against S.Ve. Shekher for sharing derogatory message against women journos

How can an educated person share a message on social media without reading it? asks judge

The Madras High Court on Tuesday restrained a special court here, for trying cases booked against legislators, from framing charges against actor S.Ve. Shekher, 70, for having shared a Facebook post containing derogatory content against women journalists in April 2018. The High Court also exempted the actor from appearing before the trial court since he had preferred a petition to quash the entire case.

Justice N. Sathish Kumar directed Government Advocate (criminal side) Kritika Kamal to ensure that the Cyber Crime Cell of the Central Crime Branch police here files its counter affidavit to the quash petition by April 16 and granted interim relief to the petitioner till then. The case was booked on a complaint lodged by A. Midar Moideen, general secretary of Tamil Nadu Journalist Protection and Welfare Association.

After investigating the matter, the police had laid a charge sheet against the actor under Sections 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace), 505(1)(c) (public mischief) and 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) of Indian Penal Code and Section 4 of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act of 2002 and the trial court had decided to frame charges on Wednesday.

Impressing upon the need to stay the trial court proceedings, the petitioner’s counsel Venkatesh Mahadevan said the actor was not the author of the derogatory Facebook post. He claimed that it was authored by Thirumalai Sa alias Thirumalai Sadagopan, a resident of California and the petitioner had only shared that post without reading it since the author generally posts religious and patriotic messages on his Facebook page.

When the judge wondered how the petitioner, being an educated person, could share a message on the social media without even reading it, the counsel said it was a genuine mistake and the actor deleted the message within a couple of hours after he was alerted by others about the derogatory content. It was also brought to the notice of the court that the actor tendered an unconditional apology to the journalists next day.

Immediately, the judge retorted that the contention of having shared the message inadvertently might be considered as a mitigating circumstance before the trial court but not as a ground to quash the entire case. Nevertheless, since the prosecution had opposed the plea for quashing the case and sought time to file a counter affidavit, the judge accepted the request and granted an interim stay with respect to framing of charges.

In his affidavit, the petitioner pointed out that a woman in California had staged a protest outside the residence of Thirumalai Sadagopan after the latter’s Facebook post and said the incident would prove that the actor was not the author of the Facebook post. His counsel told the court that the police had filed the charge sheet only against the actor and not the author of the message.

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