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[COVID19] Calcutta HC Directs Police To Return Mobile Phone/SIM Card Seized From A Doctor Who Criticised Govt. For Deficient Protective Gear Supply [Read Order]

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
2 April 2020 5:28 AM GMT
[COVID19] Calcutta HC Directs Police To Return Mobile Phone/SIM Card Seized From A Doctor Who Criticised Govt. For Deficient Protective Gear Supply [Read Order]

"If an expression of opinion brings the government into disrepute, it cannot defend this allegation by intimidation of the person expressing the opinion by subjecting him to prolonged interrogation, threatening arrest seizing his mobile phone and SIM card and so on."

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The Calcutta High Court has directed the police to return mobile phone and SIM card seized from a doctor who criticized the Government in Social Media for supply of allegedly deficient protective gear to doctors treating COVID19 patients.

Dr. Indranil Khan, a private medical practitioner specialized in oncology, had made several Facebook posts concerning the allegedly deficient protective gear supplied by the government to its doctors attending COVID‐19 virus affected patients in its hospitals. An FIR was lodged against him and he was called by the police for a lengthy interrogation on 29th March, 2020. He was booked under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code

While considering his plea against alleged harassment by police, Justice IP Mukerji said:

"Freedom of speech and expression which is granted under Article 19 of the Constitution of India has to be scrupulously upheld by the State. If an expression of opinion brings the government into disrepute, it cannot defend this allegation by intimidation of the person expressing the opinion by subjecting him to prolonged interrogation, threatening arrest seizing his mobile phone and SIM card and so on. It can do so if a citizen tries to utilize this freedom by trying to circulate alleged facts maliciously with a view to causing damage to another person or to the public at large or the nation. This could be done by unnecessary spread of fear and panic among the public for the above reason"

The Court observed that ingredients of offence are lacking in the case and therefore directed the police to immediately return the mobile phone and SIM card of the writ petitioner to him. The court added:

The respondents may start a criminal case against the writ petitioner without arresting him, if at all the evidence prima facie discloses an offence. The liberty of the petitioner can only be curtailed by orders of the said court to be passed in a properly instituted proceeding. For the time being the writ petitioner is restrained from making any posting in his Facebook concerning the above issue


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