SC reserves verdict on plea of Kerala YouTuber Shajan Skaria seeking pre-arrest bail in case lodged by MLA

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Kerala YouTuber Shajan Skaria

Kerala YouTuber Shajan Skaria (File image)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its verdict on a plea of Shajan Skaria, who runs YouTube channel Marunadan Malayali, challenging the denial of anticipatory bail to him by the Kerala High Court in a criminal case lodged by MLA P V Sreenijin.

Sreenijin had lodged an FIR for offences under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against Skaria alleging that he had intentionally humiliated the lawmaker by making false allegations and accusations through a video uploaded on 'Marunadan Malayali'.

A bench comprising justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra heard submissions and counters from senior lawyers Siddharth Luthra and P V Dinesh, who represented the accused and the lawmaker respectively. Dinesh said there were 2.9 million followers of the YouTube channel and the lawmaker was being humiliated with malicious intent.

Luthra, on the other hand, said a case under the SC/ST Act was not made out and moreover, the defamation is a bailable and non-cognisable offence.

"We are reserving the order," Justice Pardiwala said.

On June 30, the Kerala High Court had dismissed the appeal of Skaria against an order of the Ernakulam Special Court.

The special trial court had refused to grant pre-arrest bail to Skaria. The high court had said it was not possible to hold that there was no prima facie material to attract the offence under Section 3(1)(r) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

Skaria had telecast a news item regarding alleged mal-administration of Sports Hostel.

It was alleged in the FIR that the said news item contained "false, baseless and defamatory allegations against the de facto complainant (the MLA), who belongs to the scheduled caste, with an intention to insult him".

It was further alleged that the said news item promoted feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will against members of the scheduled caste or scheduled tribe. Section 3(1)(r) of the Act provides that, "whoever, not being a member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe in any place within view, shall be punished".