The High Court of Andhra Pradesh has issued notice to Centre, AP Government, AP Police, Google, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp in a writ petition filed by the High Court itself seeking action against defamatory social media posts against judiciary.
The petition filed through HC Registrar seeks directions to the police to take action on two FIRs, lodged on 16 April and 18 April, complaining against unknown people posting "defamatory and scandalous material" on social media platforms. These complaints mentioned comments relating to different judgments passed by the HC adverse to various decisions of the State Government. Earlier, the HC had initiated suo moto contempt action against 49 persons for allegedly posting such contents in social media.
The writ petition also has sought a direction to social media platforms to "devise self regulatory framework to prohibit posting of defamatory, incriminatory and abusive contents on their respective platforms with respect to judiciary in India" and to remove all such posts/comments/tweets/videos which are the subjects of the FIRs.
There is a further direction sought to direct the Union Government to frame intermediary guidelines under Section 79(2)(c) of the Information Technology Act, 'thereby securing certain protection to judiciary'.
The failure of the Central Government in taking immediate action against the social media giants with respect to the abusive contents against the HC is sought to be declared as 'illegal and unconstitutional'.
On June 16, a bench comprising Chief Justice J K Maheshwari and Justice C Praveen Kumar issued notices to the respondents to show cause as to why the writ petition should not be admitted. The matter will be next considered after three weeks.
As per the petition, of the three pillars of the State, the judiciary is the "weakest… with no ground to defend or voice its opinion", and so, the government authorities should "act immediately" and curb the "unabated and unprecedented attack" on the high court.
On May 26, the HC had issued suo moto contempt notices to 49 persons, including a Member of Parliament and a former Member of Legislative Assembly, observing that they made intimidating and abusive social media posts against judges.
A bench comprising Chief Justice J K Maheshwari and Justice C Praveen Kumar had noted that the comments attributed political motives to the judges. Some of the comments were highly abusive, intimidating and life threatening, the Court observed. The Court said that there appeared to be a larger conspiracy against the judges.
"The content in the video/clippings/postings also amount to contempt for trying to scandalise and lower the image of the Hon'ble Court and Hon'ble Judges", the Court observed.
Click here to download Order