NEWS: Bombay HC: Stringent Norms to Restraint Provocative Posts on Social Media Sites

By Legal Wires 5 Minutes Read

Spotting that “A trend is clearly discernible that in the name of exercise of a right, the liberty of free speech is being abused with bad faith” the Bombay HC has held that individuals need to exercise some degree of restraint on their freedom of free speech & expression, predominantly during these challenging times. The court correspondingly held, “it is time that the State introduces a regime of conduct with stricter norms but satisfying the test of reasonableness,” to pact with the hasty upsurge of absolutely avoidable, uncalled for & unwarranted provocative posts/messages on social media platforms. The annotations were made by the division bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta & justice Madhav Jamdar while passing its judgment in the public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Mumbai resident Moin Khan through advocate Vivek Shukla.

The PIL had sought after a restraint & action against Abu Faizal, the follower of a political party, who was uploading publicly sensitive material on social media sites, which the petitioner contended could lead to communal disharmony. The PIL had sought the elimination of the content as well as a permanent ban on Faizal from accessing social media platforms. All through arguments, Shukla had submitted that Faizal was a supporter of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) party & was scattering hatred through posting of malevolent material on social media to create hatred among two communities.

In May, the court had asked Facebook & Youtube– on which Faizal had uploaded the communally sensitive material– to delete the same & directed Mumbai police to inspect the matter. The bench had also detected that under the Information Technology Act, the petitioner could approach the nodal officer & lodge a complaint against the objectionable content & hence would not interfere further in the matter. On its part, Facebook & Youtube, through senior advocate Darius Khambatta & advocate Naresh Thakker had informed the court that they could block Abu Faizal if the court or the Central government ordered them to do so under the IT Act. Subsequently, the court had held in reserve the judgement, which was pronounced on Friday, August 21. While directing the petitioner to pursue his complaint with the nodal officer, the 22-page judgment further held,

“The right cannot be exercised to sow seeds of hatred & to create disharmony among religious communities. Since inflammatory posts/messages have the potential of disturbing public peace & tranquility, strong action ought to be taken against those responsible for upholding the high values aimed at by the Constitution. In a secular country like India, the citizens of different religions should feel assured that they can live in peace with persons practicing other religions.”

Though directed to the exercise of the right to speech, the court said,

“However, those exercising such a right must not remain oblivious that the exercise cannot rise above national interest & interest of the society. In the guise of exercising the right, no form of insult to any group or community, disrupting public order ought to ensue.”

 The judgment accomplishes with directions to the state to announce stricter norms to restraint such behavior.

Legal Wires

Team @LegalWires

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