Mumbai: A ‘police station’ doesn’t come within the definition of a ‘prohibited place’, as defined in the Official Secrets Act (OSA), observed the Bombay High Court while quashing an FIR against a person booked under the Act for clicking photos, inside the police station, of a complaint filed against him after the police refused to give him a photocopy.
A division bench of Justices Revati Mohite-Dere and RN Laddha recently quashed the FIR against Zishan Siddique, 33, observing, “Law cannot be used as an instrument to oppress and harass people. Police being the custodians of law are duty bound to uphold it and not misuse it.”
Fine on Maharashtra govt
The bench also imposed a cost of Rs 25,000 on the Maharashtra Government, which is to be recovered from the salary of the officer concerned.
The HC was hearing a petition filed by Mr Siddiqui seeking quashing of the FIR registered against him by the Mira Road police station in April 2022. According to his plea, he was called to the police station on April 20 last year, at 5.30pm, saying that a complaint was registered against him. At the police station, he was shown a written complaint that was filed against him but the cops refused to give him a copy. He then took photographs and video of the complaint. The police took away his mobile phone and booked him under the OSA.
Expressing displeasure at the police registering the FIR, the bench said that the police can, at most, put up a display board against photography. “Police stations are places, where people are free to go/walk in, to lodge a complaint/FIR, to redress the wrong/injustice done to them. It is always open for the police to put up a board prohibiting photography but if one does take a photo/video, certainly, the said act would not come within the ambit of the OSA,” averred the court.
Recently, the HC quashed another FIR against a man by Akluj police station in Solapur under the OSA, for clicking photographs of a police station from outside. While quashing that FIR, the bench headed by Justice Mohite-Dere had observed that “It (FIR under the OSA) could impact one’s reputation, job, career and so on. It cannot be lightly invoked, to jeopardise someone’s life and career.”