The Supreme Court issued notice in a plea regarding whether restrictions could be imposed on usage of social media by a trial court as a condition for grant of bail.
A Bench of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Justices R. Subhash Reddy and AS Bopanna heard the matter filed by Congress leader Sachin Chaudhary, and issued notice to the Central Government and the State of Uttar Pradesh. The plea, filed by Advocate-on-Record Keshav Ranjan, stems from the Allahabad High Court Order of Justice Siddharth which had granted bail to Chaudhary on the condition that he would not use social media while being enlarged on bail till the conclusion of the trial. "The applicant shall not use social media till the conclusion of the trial". Chaudhary, who had been arrested by the Police as per Case Crime No. 0198 of 2020 under Sections 188, 269, 270, 271, 124A, 505, 153A, 153B of the Indian Penal Code as well as Sections 66A, 67 of the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008, and Section 56 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, had been granted bail on 20th May by the Allahabad High Court in wake of the "larger mandate of the Article 21 of the Constitution of India and the dictum of the Apex Court in the case of Dataram Singh v. State of UP & Anr (2018)". Amongst various other conditions such as sincere cooperation in trial and non-indulgence in criminal activity after being released on bail, one of them was the restriction on usage of social media. This was consequently challenged by Chaudhary before the Supreme Court. The plea contends that "Sharing views and express opinions on social media platform falls under the right of freedom of speech and expression. Liberty of a person is one of the oldest concepts to be protected by national courts. No person shall be deprived of his life and personal liberty by the Constitution of India." It further underlines the importance of social media for connecting with relatives or friends, or for sharing and discussing information. "Curtailing this right is not only a deprivation of his personal right and his liberty, but is certainly affecting the life and career of the Petitioner socially and politically. Social media sites like WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter have become important venues for users to exercise their right of freedom of speech and expression protected under Article 19 of the Constitution of India". Today, Chief Justice Bobde observed that the condition did not seem to be too "onerous". "We don't think it's too onerous if a person's participation on social media creates mischief. Why can't the Court say you don't use the instrument by which you caused mischief?" Senior Advocate Salman Khurshid, appearing on behalf of the Petitioner, submitted to the Bench that there was no allegation against Chaudhary with respect to social media usage. To this, CJI Bobde responded that the Court would like to lay down a law on this aspect. The Court further stated that they would consider the question of law on whether a trial court, while granting bail, could restrict a person from using social media, when the crime committed has nothing to do with social media access. On the basis of the above, the Supreme Court issued notice to the Centre and the State of UP.
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