New Delhi: The Karnataka High Court Friday granted bail to two Muslim men who were arrested after a video allegedly showing them picking up watermelons from a drain went viral on social media.
Nineteen-year-old Rihan and 20-year-old Shahbaz were arrested in April and were charged with Sections 270 (malignant act likely to spread life threatening disease) and 328 (hurting someone through poison etc.) of the Indian Penal Code.
They had applied for bail at the Belagavi sessions court, but their application was rejected.
They then approached the high court and their petition was heard by Justice R. Devdas.
Justice Devdas blamed social media for creating a communal divide, while emphasising on the submission made by the two men that the watermelons had fallen into an open drain which had no stagnant water or running drainage water, and that they were merely taking them out.
As per the court order, the duo had admitted that they were the two people in the video clipping, but denied indulging in any activity that would have caused danger to those who bought the watermelons.
The court highlighted the “circumstances under which the Police have sprung into action noticing the content of the video clipping”, observing, “No doubt that the pandemic COVID- 19 situation has set alarm bells ringing not only in our country but the entire world over. Nevertheless, this Court is of the opinion that the social media has created a panic situation where a social divide is being brought in the minds of the general public on the basis of the communal identification of a group of persons.”
Offence under Section 328 does not appear to be committed: Court
Their lawyer had also submitted that they have been charged under Section 328 only because it was non-bailable and prescribed a punishment of up to 10 years along with a fine. Section 270, on the other hand, is bailable and carries a maximum punishment of two years or a fine.
The court agreed with these arguments, and observed, “In this case, though it is stated by the learned Counsel for the petitioners that the watermelons had fallen off into the open drain where there was no stagnant water or running drainage water, an impression is created as if the petitioners have wantonly dipped the watermelons in the drain water and put up the same for sale to the general public which would cause serious health issues to persons who consume such watermelons.”
It added that the offence under Section 328 did not appear to have been committed, but clarified that it also could not test the veracity of the petitioners’ intention.
They were therefore granted bail, on a personal bond of Rs 50,000 each.