Madras HC refuses to quash cases against S Ve Shekher over derogatory Facebook post against women journalists

Court says the former MLA cannot get away by tendering an apology

Madras High Court | PTI Madras High Court | PTI

The Madras High Court on Friday refused to quash multiple criminal petitions filed against former MLA and actor S Ve Shekher for sharing a derogatory Facebook post against women journalists. The criminal cases were filed in the courts of Chennai, Karur and Tirunelveli districts by the journalist association in 2018.

Justice N. Anand Venkatesh dismissed the plea to quash petitions filed by Shekher and said the petitioner was an educated and a well-known figure in the state with a large following on Facebook. “The message forwarded by the petitioner contains indecent and vitriolic attack on a particular woman and other women press reporters. Hence, prima facie, the offence under Section 4 of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act, 2002 is also cases made out. It is true that the petitioner removed the derogatory message from his Facebook account even on the same day and he also apologised for having forwarded the message. These acts, by themselves, do not help the petitioner from facing the consequences for forwarding a derogatory message. An offence has already been committed and the petitioner cannot now escape from the offence by merely coming up with an apology statement subsequently,” the judge said in his 23-page judgment.

Refusing to accept Shekhar’s claim that he shared someone else's post inadvertently without reading it, the judge said that an unconditional apology does not prevent him from facing the trial. “In cases involving a dispute between two individuals, if immediately the offender regrets and tenders his apology for his act, the Court may consider acting upon the same. However, in the instant case, it is not a dispute between two individuals and the act of the petitioner has virtually painted the entire press and more particularly women reporters with vulgar comments and when such a large body is affected due to the act of the petitioner, he cannot be let away just because he tendered an apology. If such an easy route is adopted, anyone can make such statements, cause damage, subsequently apologise for his act and get away from the action taken against him,” Justice Anand stated.

Stating that the shared Facebook message hurt women journalists in general and not just the journalist he mentioned in particular, Justice Venkatesh went on to add: “A message that is sent or forwarded on social media is like an arrow which has already been shot from the bow. Till that message remains with the sender, it is within his control. Once it is sent, it is like the arrow, which has already been shot and the sender of the message must take the ownership for the consequences of the damage done by that arrow (message). Once the damage is done, it will become very difficult to wriggle out of the same by issuing an apology statement.”

Subsequently Shekher has to face trial before the special court for legislators in Chennai. “The Special Court shall try to expeditiously complete the trial and pass final orders in all the cases not later than six months,” Justice Anand said.

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