21 Dec 2022 5:50 AM GMT
The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court on Monday cautioned against the misuse of social media, while acknowledging that it has become a powerful medium for exchange of views. "One has to be careful when one expresses one's view or makes comments that the words used are not obscene or indignified or demeaning. In other words, a balance has to be struck between the need for healthy...
The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court on Monday cautioned against the misuse of social media, while acknowledging that it has become a powerful medium for exchange of views.
"One has to be careful when one expresses one's view or makes comments that the words used are not obscene or indignified or demeaning. In other words, a balance has to be struck between the need for healthy use of social media and the need for preventing misuse of social media", a division bench of Justice Sunil B. Shukre and Justice M. W. Chandwani observed.
The court said that India's democracy has progressed so much and tolerance to fair criticism, dissent, and satirical comments has become its hallmark. Commenting on the role of social media in democracy, the court said that it is only a pillar to democracy till it is not misused by posting content which constitutes an offence or falls under reasonable restrictions on free speech.
"The social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, Telegram, etc. today has become a powerful medium for exchange of views, expressing opinions, counter opinions, posting critical or satirical comments and thus has become one of the important pillars on which our democracy stands. But, the social media is so only till the point it is not misused by posting remarks, articles, etc., which by themselves constitute an offence or which do not fall within the prohibited zone created in terms of Article 19(2) of the Constitution."
While quashing an FIR against a 39-year-old man who allegedly hacked into the Facebook account of MLA Ravi Rana to post abusive comments, the court said that the fine balance of social media was upset in the present case.
The court however, took exception to the man's conduct and made the aforementioned remarks. The bench said that though offence is not made out in this case, it doesn't give "licence to the applicant to revile Head of the State Government; to be bawdy about the Head".
The FIR was for offence under section 153A of the IPC (promoting enmity between different groups and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony).
The court agreed with the applicant's submission that even if the allegations are true, they are not creating disharmony among different groups. To constitute offence under section 153A, there must be an intention or attempt to promote enmity among different groups based on religion, caste, race etc. The court said that no such intention has been made out in this case.
Therefore, the court quashed the FIR stating, "A crime not disclosed has been registered against the applicant on the one hand and a new ebb in showing dissent through lewd comments has been attained by the applicant on the other. We hope, in future some restrain will be shown by both sides".
Case no. – Criminal Application (APL) No. 701 of 2022
Case Title – Suraj s/o Arvind Thakare v. State of Maharashtra and Ors.
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Bom) 506