The Madras High Court on Thursday directed the Director General of Police (DGP) to constitute dedicated cells in every police station in the State to track unscrupulous offenders who post derogatory content on social media, not only against constitutional and government functionaries but also against the common man.
"Unless the menace is curbed with iron hands, it is a creeping issue which is spreading its tentacles far and wide and which will eat away not only the healthy and peaceful living of the individuals, but would also put in jeopardy the whole nation and the persons manning the helm of affairs of the society would be left to the mercy of these individuals. Therefore, it is high time that suitable and necessary directioSns should be issued to the law enforcing agency to tackle this grave menace by taking necessary penal action against such of those unscrupulous fellows who misuse the social media without any iota of evidence," Justice M. Dhandapani said.
He has ordered that the special cells will be established within two months and the personnel deputed at such of those cells will be imparted with all crafts and knowledge, essential to track down the delinquent persons and to prevent untoward incidents from happening.
"Right to a dignified life is guaranteed under the Constitution and the same cannot be allowed to be breached for the pleasure of certain unscrupulous elements, who make defamatory, abusive and unsubstantiated statements against any individuals, be it a common man, a constitutional authority, a Government official or any person holding high office either in the employ of the State/Centre, Public/Private Sector. These types of cheap publicity and scandalous acts should be nipped in the bud, failing which it will start mushrooming and rise to gigantic proportions.," the court further remarked.
The directions were issued pursuant to the unsatisfactory report placed on record by the Superintendent of Police, Cyber Cell, Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID), which as per the court neither mentioned any proper mechanism relating to the future course of action to be taken against such erring persons, nor the action that was sought to be initiated against such unscrupulous elements.
These observations were made while disposing of a bail application wherein the accused had been charged under Sections 502 and 509 of IPC for circulating videos containing defamatory and unsubstantiated statements against a sitting judge of the Madras High Court and a lawyer and also against the entire judicial system.
It was the case of the Petitioner-accused that his statements were not intentional and were made without visualising its consequences, only as an outpour of his grievance.
The high court allowed his bail application after his tendering an unconditional apology. It said,
"It is to be noted that though it is not the intention of the petitioner, as seen from his statement, however, the statements made by him are not only contumacious but are also equally unacceptable and is against all cannons of law. Majesty of the Court cannot be allowed to be degraded but at the same time, self-realisation also needs to be taken into account while considering the gamut of facts. In view of the apology tendered by the petitioner, this Court is inclined to take the above affidavit on record and, accordingly, accept the apology tendered by the petitioner."
The matter has now been posted for March 30, to assess compliance.
A similar order was also passed by the Kerala High Court in 2018, whereby it called upon the State Police to bring out a good practise guide for digital evidence to tackle cyber crimes and also to impart training to police officers to tackle the criminal misuse of current and emerging technologies.
In September last year, the Supreme Court had asked the Central Government to file an affidavit regarding framing of guidelines to prevent misuse of social media by balancing the interests of online privacy and state sovereignty.
"Misuse of social media has become dangerous. Govt should step in to deal with the issue at the earliest. Why should we worry about the internet? We will worry about our country. We can't say we don't have the technology to track the origins of online crimes. If originators have technology to do it, we have technology to counter it and track the originator," the bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose had remarked then.
Case No.: Crl. OP No. 34166/2019
Quorum: Justice M. Dhandapani
Click Here To Download Order