Every citizen has right to criticise abrogation of Article 370: SC

Top court quashes case against professor

Supreme Court Supreme Court

In a significant ruling, the Supreme Court on Thursday quashed a criminal case against a professor over his remarks on the abrogation of Article 370 and held that every criticism is not an offence.

The court also observed that the police should be sensitised about India’s democratic values and the freedom of speech granted by the Constitution.

Professor Javed Ahmed Hajam was booked by Maharashtra Police under Section 153-A of the Indian Penel Code after he shared a WhatsApp status, criticising the abrogation of Article 370 and terming it a ‘Black Day’ for Jammu and Kashmir.

“Every citizen of India has a right to be critical of the action of abrogation of Article 370 and the change of status of Jammu and Kashmir. Describing the day the abrogation happened as a 'Black Day' is an expression of protest and anguish,” said a bench of Justices Abhay S. Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan, reported the Live Law.

The apex court also noted that democracy will not survive if every criticism or protest against the government is to be held as an offence under Section 153-A.

Hajam, on his WhatsApp status, had written “August 5 – Black Day Jammu & Kashmir" and “14th August – Independence Day Pakistan”.

The Bombay High Court had earlier refused to quash the FIR against Hajam, while raising concerns that the messages could promote disharmony and ill-will among different groups.

The top court, however, maintained that the messages, while expressing dissent, had not targeted any specific group based on religion, race or other grounds.

"This is an expression of his individual view and his reaction to the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution of India. It does not reflect any intention to do something that is prohibited under Section 153-A. At best, it is a protest, which is a part of his freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a),” the court said.

The court further clarified that under Article 19(1)(a), every citizen has the right to offer criticism of the action of abrogation of Article 370 or, for that matter, every decision of the State. 

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