The remarks were made when multiple cases of alleged crime were recorded on social media in Telangana, despite legal experts and an order from the Bombay Supreme Court suggesting otherwise.
Hyderabad City Police Commissioner Anjani Kumar recently said it was up to a person to determine if any information is right or wrong before it is posted on social media, adding that action will be taken if the information changes uploaded content turns out to be false against them. That statement predates the Bakrid Festival, where several issues about animal sacrifice, which is an important ritual of the festival, have frequently surfaced on social media in the past.
“Social media is one thing that is abused a lot. We had previously booked trials against such people and would also like to inform you that two people were sentenced to six months in prison for this last month. When you upload something on social media, it is your responsibility to determine if it is right or wrong. If you have uploaded wrong content, lawsuits will be posted against you, ”Kumar said during an interview with the media during a Bakrid preparatory meeting in Hyderabad.
Why is that important? In a broader context, this statement can be seen in line with the recent judgment in the Saket Gokhale v Lakshmi Puri case, in which the Delhi Supreme Court repeatedly asked Gokhale whether he had reviewed the content of his “defamatory” tweets against Puri with government officials before they posted them on Twitter or asked Puri for clarifications. With Gokhale’s attorney responding in the negative, the Delhi Supreme Court ruled in Puri’s favor and asked Gokhale to delete the tweets.
The declaration also comes at a time when sensitive or political content shared on social media platforms is under increasing scrutiny. Several people, including politicians and media organizations, were recently charged by UP police for sharing an “unconfirmed” video of an elderly Muslim man assaulted in the Loni district of Ghaziabad.
“We used to see people trying to record videos of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar as videos from Hyderabad. This is very wrong. We will not tolerate such persons and will take legal action against them. There are people who talk a lot. If their statements harm a religion and hurt the feelings of its followers, we will take legal action, ”added Kumar.
“Statement by the commissioner lacks legal or constitutional basis”
In response to Kumar’s remarks, legal experts pointed out that there is no law in India that makes posting “false” information on social media a criminal offense. “The Commissioner’s comments are quite worrying. There is no law in India that makes uploading false information on social media a crime itself, and so the statement lacks any legal or constitutional basis. People cannot reasonably be expected to upload strictly accurate information online, given the deluge of information and misinformation floating around, ”Pratyush Miglani, Managing Partner, Miglani Varma & Co-Advocates told MediaNama.
The Commissioner’s statement indicates that if such “false” information offends the religious sentiments of others, action could be taken against individuals under the IPC and other laws. Again, this is equally worrying as there is no yardstick or straitjacket formula by which to decide what is and what is not harmful to a community’s feelings. Overall, the police have a lot of discretion, which is cause for concern – Pratyush Miglani, Managing Partner, Miglani Varma & Co
Miglani added that IT rules 2021 do not provide any information about the consequences of people posting such content, nor what would follow after such content was removed either by the intermediary or by the users themselves.
In an interview with MediaNama, Rishi Anand, partner at DSK Legal, said: “Setting the limits of freedom of expression and stipulating which content is illegal is within the legislature’s responsibility. Of course, law enforcement agencies have an obligation to prosecute the publisher of illegal content, but ultimately the illegality will be decided by the courts under applicable legal principles only on the basis of the evidence gathered by the police during the investigation. ”During comments from the Hyderabad Police Commissioner as a deterrent can serve for malefactors, the legality of such cracks will be examined by the courts, added Anand.
Multiple complaints of “crime” on social media in just one month
According to a Telangana today Hyderabad City Police’s Cyber Crime Division reportedly received six complaints last month against several Facebook pages allegedly posting defamatory content against political figures. For example, member of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslims (AIMIM) Mohammed Irfan filed a complaint against some people who managed at least six Facebook pages and had allegedly made derogatory comments against the leaders of the AIMIM party.
Another complaint was filed by Mohammed Tauseef against a person who altered a picture of AIMIM’s senior politician Mumtaz Ahmed Khan and posted a picture on social media. A month ago, three people were arrested by Rachakonda police detectives for allegedly posting obscene content through fake social media accounts to harass women.
Previously, Telangana DGP M Mahender Reddy had said the government was keeping a close eye on social media for “ghosts” spreading or posting fake news or “inappropriate content”.
The public is asked not to post / disseminate any #Inappropriate content in the #Social media.#Telangana Police watch closely #Social media for the agitators.
Strict measures are being taken “to spark public emotions”.#DoNotMakeThisPandemic #Infodemia also. pic.twitter.com/NxrgcM9fST
– DGP TELANGANA POLICE (@TelanganaDGP) May 29, 2021
Continuation of Covid-19 Social Media Review Policy?
These law enforcement statements come after a period in which the Indian Union government and several state governments have cracked down on apparent misinformation and fake news related to the pandemic against social media content. While misinformation needs to be addressed and nipped in the bud, several restrictions imposed by local and Indian administrations had raised questions related to the restriction of freedom of expression.
For example, in April 2021, Twitter censored 52 tweets mainly criticizing the country’s handling of the second wave of Covid-19 while complying with requests from the Indian government. In the same month, local authorities such as Jabalpur County Council in Madhya Pradesh imposed restrictions on pandemic-related items. The district administration of Indore also restricted comments and forwardings in connection with the corona virus on social media.
This current action against such posts, long after the peak of the second wave is overThe question arises as to whether the authorities in India will continue their Covid-19 policy on social media and make this the new normal.
WhatsApp group admins cannot be held responsible for unintentional member messages: Bombay HC
At a time when Facebook administrators and users who share controversial content on Twitter are being prosecuted by authorities, it is also necessary to look at what India’s courts have said about WhatsApp, its groups and messages. It is also noteworthy that the encrypted messaging platform has been in the spotlight for disseminating unverified information via unverified redirects.
A few months ago, the Bombay Supreme Court ruled that an unintentional WhatsApp group administrator could not be held liable for offensive content posted by a group member. This related to a case recorded against Kishor Tarone, a WhatsApp group administrator, for allegedly making sexually tinted remarks, offending a woman’s modesty, and so on.
In our opinion, the failure of a WhatsApp group administrator to remove a member, or failure to apologize to a member who posted the offensive comment, would not amount to sexually tainted comments by the administrator. The court found
A woman complained that Tarone did not take action against a group member who posted offensive statements against a female member. The woman had argued that Tarone had not removed or deleted the accused member from the group and had not asked the accused to apologize to her.