MADURAI: The Madurai Bench of Madras High Court on Tuesday quashed an FIR registered against YouTuber M Maridhas, who was booked under sedition charges for his controversial social media posts about the recent IAF helicopter crash in Coonoor.
Passing the order on a petition filed by Maridhas, Justice GR Swaminathan observed, “In the age of social media, a YouTuber or any person commenting on questions of public importance would also be entitled to the very same right which courts accord to journalists and media under Article 19(1)(a) -- Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression -- of the Constitution.”
He pointed out that Maridhas had taken down the tweet within a few hours after posting it, "probably realising that his reaction was unnecessary". The judge also referred to how Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk differentiates between a naive and sentimental novelist. He said, "The naive write spontaneously almost without thinking, not bothering to consider the intellectual and ethical consequences of their words and paying any attention to what others might say," adding that Maridhas’s post could be categorised as naive writing.
Discussing each of the charges against Maridhas in the FIR including sedition, the judge concluded that the FIR is illegal and no charge was made out against him. He allowed the petition and quashed the FIR.
The Cyber Crime police of Madurai booked Maridhas on December 9, under IPC Sections 124A (Sedition), 153A (Promoting enmity between different groups), 504 (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) among others, for the aforementioned social media posts, in which he had questioned if Tamil Nadu, under DMK rule, is turning into another Kashmir. Maridhas’s counsel argued that the YouTuber had only voiced his concern and opinion and, being a well-known critic of the government, has been arrested only to silence him.
But the Additional Advocate General Veera Kathiravan contended that the comparison with Kashmir was unwarranted. "By alleging that the state government is supporting the separatists, Maridhas has made a conscious effort to instigate his followers to react violently so that a duly elected government can be toppled," Kathiravan added. Since Maridhas had spoken about the existence of separatists, he would have to inform the investigating agency about the materials he has in his possession to make such a statement, he further argued and sought dismissal of the petition.