1 Nov 2021 2:45 PM GMT
Observing that 'judge bashing has become a favourite pastime for some people', the Andhra Pradesh High Court has directed Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube to take down abusive contents against judges.The Court directed the Registrar General to forward the URLs of the derogatory posts to the social media intermediaries, who were directed to pull them down as expeditiously as possible,...
Observing that 'judge bashing has become a favourite pastime for some people', the Andhra Pradesh High Court has directed Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube to take down abusive contents against judges.
The Court directed the Registrar General to forward the URLs of the derogatory posts to the social media intermediaries, who were directed to pull them down as expeditiously as possible, but not later than a period of 36 hours. The Court also directed that YouTube should block the channel named "Punch Prabhakar", which was posting abusive videos against judges.
A division bench of Chief Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra and Justice Lalitha Kanneganti passed the order in the suo motu contempt case taken by the High Court last year against the abusive and threatening social media posts made by certain members of the ruling party of the Andhra Pradesh against judges of the High Court. The High Court had last year directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to investigate the derogatory social media posts against judges. In the order passed on October 29, the bench expressed dissatisfaction at the progress of CBI investigation, and sought for an affidavit by the CBI Director as to what transpired after December 2020, and the efforts taken by it.
Senior Advocate Sajan Poovayya, appearing for Twitter, Google and Facebook, informed the bench that the social media intermediaries do not have a mechanism to pull down derogatory posts suo motu, but if a court direction is there the same can be done within 36 hours.
The order written by Justice Kanneganti has certain important observations. They are highlighted below:
Judges becoming soft targets of organized campaigns in politically polarized environment
"In a politically polarized environment the Judges and the institution of Judiciary have become soft targets for the organized campaigns. Political rivals become active on social media, attempts are made to influence the proceedings and intimidate the Judges. After the Judgments/orders are passed, the aggrieved party vigorously starts a vilification campaign by imputing motives to the Judges and attempts are made to malign the institutional reputation. Legitimate criticism is always welcomed in a democracy. But there is a thin line between legitimate criticism and making abusive, irrational, scandalous, unsavoury personal attacks undermining the Majesty of the institution and the authority vested in the Judges. If these kind of imputations are left unanswered over a period of time common man who is unconnected with these unscrupulous elements will start believing that there is something thoroughly wrong with the system and his faith in the system will erode. It will ultimately lead to undermining the confidence of the people in the sacred institution and interference with the course of administration of justice. As rightly said the silence of law men will do more harm than the violence of layman. Criticism must not be double sided sword, which aims at creating distress in the society".
Judge bashing a favourite pastime for some people
"Judge Bashing" and using derogatory and contemptuous language against Judges has become a favourite pass time of some people. These statements tend to scandalize and lower the authority of the Courts and cannot be permitted because, for functioning of democracy, an independent judiciary to dispense justice without fear and favour is paramount. Its strength is the faith and confidence of the people in that institution. That cannot be permitted to be undermined because that will be against the public interest. Judiciary should not be reduced to the position of flies in the hands of wanton boys. Judge bashing is not and cannot be a substitute for constructive criticism".
Dissatisfaction with CBI probe progress
The Superintendent of Police, CBI, Vishakhapattanam was present before the Court. He submitted that though they have addressed letters dated 05.12.2020 and 07.01.2021 so far the respective intermediaries failed to give any details, in spite of their best efforts, there is no progress in the investigation.
Replying to specific query of the Court regarding whereabouts of Mr.Punch Prabhakar, he submitted that accused is a resident of USA and attempts are made through FBI to catch hold of him and so far they could not get any personal information about the said person. It was also submitted that because of laches on the part of intermediaries, there is no substantial development or progress in the case.
Regarding the CBI investigation, the Court made the following observation :
"The CBI is considered to be a premier investigating agency of the country. The Courts in India hold CBI as an organization in high esteem. It is important that it shouldnever give impression that its working is lopsided. In spite of orders passed by this Court on number of occasions, neither there is development in the investigation nor efforts are made to remove the abusive content. We feel, attention from top level is warranted. Hence, an affidavit shall be filed by the Director, CBI as to what has transpired from December, 2020, what are the efforts made by CBI and the future course of actions"
Click here to read/download the order