Police Can’t Harass Indian Citizens For Social Media Posts: SC

Bhubaneswar:   Besides having scrapped Section 66A of the Information and Technology (IT) Act already in March 2015, the Supreme Court yesterday (October 28, 2020) ruled that the police of any states cannot harass the Indian citizens for their social media posts defaming the State Governments or political persons.

As per media reports, the Supreme Court on Wednesday (October 28, 2020) made it clear for the State Governments that their police cannot harass or summon individuals from far away places in the country for the alleged social media posts defaming political persons.

The apex court in its ruling clearly mentioned that the citizens cannot be summoned from one corner of the country to another for a social media post criticizing the Government.

This stricture was passed basing on a petition in which the Bengal Police issued summons to a resident of Delhi as she had allegedly criticized the State Government for the lapse in enforcing the lockdown protocols.
The two-member bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee, ruled: “We’re here to protect free speech.”

They also ruled: “Do not cross the line. Let India remain a free country. We, as the Supreme Court, are here to protect free speech. The reason why SC was created by the Constitution is to ensure that ordinary citizens are not harassed by the state.”

They also reiterated the sanctity of free speech guaranteed to the citizens under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.

The matter came up in the Supreme Court when a 29-year old woman Rohini Biswas challenged the summons issued by the Kolkata Police to depose for her Facebook post criticizing the large congregation at Raja Bazaar area of Kolkata blatantly violating lockdown imposed. The Kolkata Police had registered an FIR and Delhi resident Rohini Biswas was accused of inciting hatred against a particular community.

The apex court’s two-member bench rather suggested the Kolkata Police send Rohini Biswas their questions via email or interrogate through video conferencing instead of summoning her to depose in person.

Earlier in March 2015, the Supreme Court, in its historic verdict on the Section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act, has already declared it unconstitutional as well as scrapped it. The apex court in its verdict then has already pronounced that this Section 66A of the IT Act is in violation of Article 19 (I) A of the Constitution which provides Fundamental Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression to every citizen of the country.

The previous verdict of the Supreme Court has also made it clear that no one will be arrested for posting any post on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Whatsapp.

Prior to this verdict then, the police had the right, under the Section 66A of the IT Act, to arrest anyone on the basis of what was written on the social media.