The Bombay High Court has granted anticipatory bail to an editor of a weekly Marathi newspaper who is accused of stalking a woman online and sending her obscene messages on social media. Justice Sandeep Shinde on Thursday was hearing a petition filed by Pramod Dhumal seeking pre-arrest bail.
Dhumal, in his plea filed through advocate Aniket Nikam, sought pre-arrest bail in connection with an FIR lodged against him by Virar police on June 11, 2020 under section 354D (stalking a woman physically or online) of the Indian Penal Code and under Information Technology Act. As per the prosecution, Dhumal sent obscene and vulgar messages from his phone to the Facebook account of the victim, a housewife.
The victim indicated her disinterest and discomfort over the messages but the accused allegedly continued sending them. As per the complaint, the accused also sent links of obscene content to the woman following which she filed a police case.
Dhumal approached HC after a sessions court refused to grant him anticipatory bail. Justice Shinde, in the order, noted that while, prima facie, Dhumal's complicity in the offence of stalking is evident, there is no evidence to attract the penal provisions of section 67-A of the IT Act.
The court observed that to attract section 67-A of the IT Act, material shared must be of a nature describing or representing sexual activity in a direct or detailed way. "No doubt, images sent and the link on tapping revealed material that tends to excite lust but it was not material containing 'sexually explicit act'. Thus, prima facie, provisions of section 67-A of IT Act are not attracted to the case at hand," Justice Shinde said in the order.
The court noted that the accused tried to foster personal interaction with the complainant despite clear indication of disinterest shown by her and continued to send her obscene images. "Therefore, prima facie, the applicant's complicity in the common offence of stalking is evident, which is punishable under section 354D of the IPC. However, it is bailable being the first offence," the court said.
The court granted Dhumal pre-arrest bail and directed him to appear before the concerned police station once in two weeks till the charges in the case are framed. Dhumal's advocate Nikam said allegations against the accused was that he sent a link of a public group on the Facebook messenger of the complainant which when opened led to a page of obscene material.
"The link in itself was not obscene and hence the provisions of section 67-A of the IT Act cannot be imposed.The other section imposed on Dhumal (IPC 354D) is bailable," Nikam had argued.