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"Social Media Doing A 'Great Job' In Reaching Out To Citizens Who Need Urgent Help": P&H High Court Observes A Section Of Media Airs Sensational News

Sparsh Upadhyay
30 April 2021 8:30 AM GMT
Social Media Doing A Great Job In Reaching Out To Citizens Who Need Urgent Help: P&H High Court Observes A Section Of Media Airs Sensational News
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The Punjab & Haryana High Court on Wednesday (April 28) lauded the role of social media in reaching out to the citizens who are in urgent need of help. The Bench of Justice Arvind Singh Sangwan, however, added that a micro percentage of media may not be that responsible in playing a positive role in nation building and instead of restraining to promote hate speeches, coverage,...

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The Punjab & Haryana High Court on Wednesday (April 28) lauded the role of social media in reaching out to the citizens who are in urgent need of help.

The Bench of Justice Arvind Singh Sangwan, however, added that a micro percentage of media may not be that responsible in playing a positive role in nation building and instead of restraining to promote hate speeches, coverage, it airs sensational news.

The matter before the Court

The Court was hearing a plea of one Amit Ghai seeking anticipatory bail in an FIR under Sections 295-A, 298, 153-A, 153-B, 505, 149, 124-A and 120-B of the IPC.

As per allegations in the FIR, registered at the instance of Inspector Daljit Singh, it was stated that he had seen a video clip, which went viral on social media, the petitioner and many other persons had convened a conference and wherein certain derogatory remarks were made regarding Nihang Sikhs that they are roaming with 4 or 3 or 2 feet long swords and are giving bad name to the attire of the Nihang community.

According to the complainant, this video amounted to hate speech, which was prepared to create communal disharmony and which may lead to communal riots by insulting a particular section of the society and, therefore, it had posed a threat to the unity and integrity of the country.

On the other hand, the Counsel for the petitioner stated that the video was uploaded on social media, i.e. Facebook and YouTube by the Chief Editor of Punjab Kesari TV, and in fact, the video was edited in a manner that gave a one-sided version.

It was argued that the conversation between the petitioner and the said Press Reporter was not intended to hurt the religious sentiments of any community and that by editing the speech of the petitioner, a wrong message had been given by the aforesaid Press Reporter to make a sensational news by adding his own contents.

Court's observations

At the outset, the Court remarked that it was a universally accepted fact that Press (including Print and Electronic media) had become the fourth pillar of democracy, which could change the mindset of the citizens regarding hate crime in society.

"Even in the present COVID-19 pandemic situation, this fourth pillar has done an exceptionally commendable job in extending help to both, Government as well as needy citizens," the Court further observed.

Importantly, the Court also added,

"Not only this, even social media is doing a great job in reaching out to the citizens who are in urgent need of help and all the citizens, whether known or unknown, are extending help to each other."

However, the Court further observed that a micro percentage of media may not be that responsible in playing a positive role in the nation building and instead of restraining to promote hate speeches, coverage, it airs sensational news.

"The followers of this school of thought believe that they are above law and will go uncondemned from the process of law," the Court further remarked.

Lastly, posting the matter for further hearing on May 25, the Court granted anticipatory bail to the petitioner and directed the state to continue its investigation in the matter.

In the meantime, the Director/Additional Director, Bureau of The investigation, Punjab has been directed to look into the investigation as well as the role of the person who had uploaded the video clip on social media and file a specific affidavit on the following points:

  • Whether a press reporter, being a citizen, on coming to know that an offence is committed, is bound to inform the police before airing such information.
  • Whether aforesaid press reporter himself was an instrument in the perpetuation of the crime as uploading a video clip on social media or electronic media may amount to promoting disharmony or feeling of hatred etc.
  • Whether the original video recording as such can be termed as hate speech.
  • Whether the edited video clip, with his comments as a catalyst, amounted to hate speech. Let the affidavit be filed on or before the next date of hearing.

Case title – Amit Ghai v. State of Punjab [CRM-M-17622-2021]

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