Social Media Important Pillar Of Democracy As Long As It Is Not Misused: Bombay High Court
The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court on Monday warned against the misuse of social media, while acknowledging that it has become a powerful medium for exchange of views.
“One must be careful when expressing one’s view or making comments that the words used are not obscene or outrageous or derogatory. In other words, a balance must be struck between the need for healthy use of social media and the need for prevention misuse of social media”, a division bank of Justice Sunil B. Shukre and Justice MW Chandwani observed.
The court said that India’s democracy has progressed so much and tolerance of fair criticism, dissent and satirical remarks has become its hallmark. On the role of social media in democracy, the court said it is only a pillar of democracy until it is not misused by posting content that constitutes an offense or falls under reasonable restrictions on free speech.
“The social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, Telegram, etc. has today become a powerful medium for exchanging opinions, expressing opinions, posting counter-opinions, critical or satirical comments and thus has become one of the important pillars. on which our democracy stands. But the social media is just so to the point that it is not abused by comments, articles, etc. to post which in itself constitutes an offense or which does not fall within the prohibited zone created in terms of section. 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 in the current matter is disturbed.
However, the court took exception to the man’s actions and made the above comments. The bench said that though offense is not made out in this case, it does not “give the petitioner a license to defame Head of the State Government; to be ashamed of the Head”.
The FIR was for an offense under section 153A of the IPC (promoting enmity between different groups and doing acts prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony).
The court agreed with the applicant’s contention that even if the allegations were true, they did not create disharmony between different groups. To constitute an offense under section 153A, there must be an intention or attempt to promote enmity between different groups on the basis of religion, caste, race, etc. The court said that no such intention was made in this case.
Therefore, the court quashed the FIR and stated, “An undisclosed crime has been registered against the applicant on the one hand and a new ebb and flow in the tone of discord by way of invidious comments has been made by the applicant reached on the other side. We hope that in the future some restraint will be shown by both sides”.
Case no. – Criminal Law Application (APL) No. 701 of 2022
Case Title – Suraj s/o Arvind Thakare v. State of Maharashtra and Ors.