TODAY -

Social media posts and freedom of speech

Oinam Nabakishore Singh *



In 2016, Merriam-Webster defined social media as "forms of electronic communication (such as Web sites) through which people create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, etc."

With the constant changes in information and communication technology, the social media platforms offer a host of services to allow the members and public to send and receive information in different formats. Improved access with improved internet connectivity and use of smartphones, at affordable cost, has also enabled more and user to be on social media.

After the death of Bal Thackeray, founder of Shiv Sena, on 17th November, 2012, a bandh was called by the supporters of Thackeray to pay respect to him, which led to suspension of all modes of transport in Mumbai city. Shaheen Dhada, 21 years old college student posted a status update on her Facebook account with text - "With due respect, every day thousands of people die, but still the world moves on. Just due to one politician died a natural death, everyone just goes bonkers. …… Respect is earned, given, and definitely not forced. Today, Mumbai shuts down due to fear, not due to respect".

Her friend Renu Srinivasan clicked "Like" on the update in her Facebook account. Both the girls were arrested by Mumbai police under section 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code that seeks to punish statements that amount to "creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes". Additionally, the two students were also charged with Section 66A of the Information Technology Act that criminalizes online speech that is "grossly offensive or of menacing character."

They were also charged under section 295A of Indian Penal Code for making insulting or outraging religious feelings an offence. The punishment for each count is three years’ imprisonment. Since the crowd of supporters of Bal Thackeray were agitated and indulged in vandalism over the facebook posts, which they considered to be disrespectful to their leader, police personnels were posted in the homes of these girls for their security.

Shri Markandey Katju, a retired judge of Supreme Court and Chief of Press Council of India wrote to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra to take action against police officials who misused the laws to arrest the girls. He mentioned in his letter, "We are living in a democracy, not a fascist dictatorship. In fact, this arrest itself appears to be a criminal act since… it is a crime to wrongfully arrest or wrongfully confine someone who has committed no crime."

Ms. Shrey Singhal, who graduated from Campus Law Faculty, Delhi University in 2016, filed a Public Interest Litigation in 2012, Writ Petition (Criminal) No.167 of 2012, in Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of Section 66A and some other sections of Information Technology Act. Since Section 66A of IT Act is directly relevant to posts in social media, it is reproduced below for better appreciation of legality or otherwise of posts:

66A. Punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service, etc.

Any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device, —
(a) any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; or
(b) any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will, persistently by making use of such computer resource or a communication device,
(c) any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine.

Explanation. — For the purpose of this section, terms "electronic mail" and "electronic mail message" means a message or information created or transmitted or received on a computer, computer system, computer resource or communication device including attachments in text, images, audio, video and any other electronic record, which may be transmitted with the message.

The judgement and orders of a bench comprising of Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice R.F. Nariman of the Supreme Court of India passed on 24th March, 2015 quashed section 66A of IT Act in the above mentioned Writ petition and other similar petitions on various grounds.

In the judgement of the Supreme Court, it was observed that the words and terms used in Section 66A of IT Act are vague and that section cannot get protection under Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India by way of reasonable restriction on the exercise of the right of freedom of speech in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.

The Court relied upon its previous judgements on the freedom of speech and struck down section 66A of IT Act. It implies that posts in social media as described in that section would not be an offence to attract penalty under that section.

However, such posts can still be an offence under other existing laws like Section 500 of Indian Penal Code for defamation if such posts are defamatory or posts which amount to incitement for hatred, etc. One should avoid using social media for the purpose and abetment of any offence under any of the existing laws. As there are grey areas in interpretation of social media posts, there are possibility of getting in trouble for posting content, which may otherwise appear innocuous.

With increasing access to internet and smartphones in future, social media is going to engage larger section of population and larger role in shaping opinion. Conventional print and electronic media will have to share space with their younger brother, social media, who will become more aggressive. On the brighter side, social media will contribute to strengthening of democracy, which relies on debate, dialogue, dissent and informed voice of the people.

Views expressed are personal.


* Oinam Nabakishore Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on January 05, 2019.



* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of e-pao.net. We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.




LATEST IN E-PAO.NET
  • Rev William Pettigrew & Modern Education
  • Cheirao-chingkaba #3 : Gallery
  • Old-Kuki group by Linguistic Survey in 1904
  • A constellation of Five :: Poem
  • A free stopover at Amsterdam
  • Standing in queue for exam form at MU
  • Questions on the ceasefire coverage
  • Paoki Paddy Festival @Purul #1: Gallery
  • Status of Naga-Kuki relation in Manipur #2
  • There is no 3rd option between true & false
  • Global Warming- Climate change & effect
  • Summertime Blues :: Poem
  • Inner Line Permit (ILP) Demand :: Timeline
  • Blocked heart valve treated without surgery
  • Reality of Education system in Manipur
  • Laichombam Sapana @ JNMDA : Gallery
  • Chingkhei Nganba, Amom :: eMing
  • Rise & Fall of Cachari Kingdom #1
  • Modi once again- Reading Election result
  • Function of Nampou of Zeliangrongs #1
  • Job Openings at Raj Medicity
  • Tatmadaw initiate forced labour on Chin
  • State BJP : Set to look beyond 2022
  • Return of Modi-Shah combo
  • Zhaoshomai, indigenous religion of Liiyai
  • Fashion by Kumarjit Laishram #2 : Gallery
  • Dams as a death trap in Manipur
  • Raju Bista (Kangpoki) is MP of Darjeeling
  • Sufferings from trust deficit
  • Bamboo charcoal.. for bamboo flowering
  • The NAMO, Amit Shah magic
  • A take on India's Act East Policy
  • Pakhangba Cheng-hongba #1 : Gallery
  • Better Selfie with Smarter Technology
  • Repeal AFSPA enacted on 22 May 1958
  • Cry of a Dying River - 77 :: Poem
  • Biodiversity : Why humanity should care ?
  • Research Officer at Amethyst Research
  • The Terrace Open Mic - II : Report
  • NPF exposed in public domain : NDPP
  • End of the largest democratic exercise
  • Stop faking and face the facts
  • Future Hindu Culture of Meitei is magificient
  • International Day of Biodiversity 2019
  • The Trunk that life of a Soldier moves on
  • MCS/MPS through lottery ? :: WJ
  • Job Vacancies at Leima Traders
  • Naga Peace Process :: News Timeline
  • 'Double standard' politics of NPF :: NDPP
  • Exit polls : Not the final verdict
  • Poll result prediction
  • Mary storms into semis
  • Glory Days of Manipur in the 18th Century
  • Alternate Rationality: Its Possibility : Book
  • Does burning of school reflect larger malady
  • RIST Talk 39 : Year of Periodic Table
  • Manipur : A woman's world
  • Paramedical courses as career options
  • Revoke suspension for NPF Office Bearers
  • Class X results : Best in 10 years
  • The wrath of Mother Nature
  • Poumai Purul Paoki Fest : Gallery
  • AEgi KoHcY :: Seireng
  • The Tamna Tamna Video: Critical Analysis
  • 'NDPP's child like attitude for meddling'
  • Rejoinder to NDPP by NPF President
  • Amazing beauty benefits of coconut oil
  • Urge Nagaland govt to review security
  • Pull out threat from the NPF
  • Myanmar launches ops on NE militants
  • Myanmar jails 24 from Assam, Manipur
  • 2019 HSLC Exam Toppers :: Gallery
  • HSLC Toppers share thoughts, aspirations
  • CFP on 'Photoacoustics' at IEEE TENCON
  • Arrival of Fall Armyworm in Manipur
  • Youth and Contemporary Issues #4
  • No Escape from Real World :: Poem
  • Civil & Structural Engineer at R-Square
  • Architectural Designer at R-Square DCS
  • 'NPF Manipur is directionless leadership'
  • HSLC :: Top 25 Rank Holders
  • HSLC :: Subject Topper
  • HSLC :: Statistical Abstract
  • HSLC :: Full Roll No Listing
  • HSLC :: Compartmental
  • Dairies of 2 Tours in Naga Hills : Book
  • Kohima Press Club (KPC) elects new team
  • Manipur : The unsung fashion capital
  • Brain Stimulation for Parkinson disease
  • 2nd Foundation Day of NDPP
  • Changing face of the North East
  • 129th Birth Anniversary of Ho Chi Minh
  • Understanding performance of Govt school
  • Amazing Folk-tales of Koireng Tribe
  • Fashion by Kumarjit Laishram #1 : Gallery
  • Cry of a Dying River - 76 :: Poem
  • Plastic Pollution & its effect
  • Significance of Nurses Week celebration
  • Legal Assistance to Prisoners' Family
  • Talk on 'Alliance - Biblical Perspective'
  • Shorthand/Stenography Typing Course
  • Fissures with a coalition partner
  • 4 plus 4 is always equal to 8
  • Mukna Kangjei Tournament : Gallery
  • Socio-cultural significance of Gudui-Ngai
  • Diesel auto vs Traffic control :: Artwork
  • Future of Moreh: Development partnership..
  • An alarming stay in a hotel
  • Naga Students Delhi Admission help Desk
  • Need to focus on the average students too
  • The politics of rumours
  • Phayeng Koubru Haraoba #4 : Gallery
  • ELVEEGO : Top 10 Promising Companies
  • Myanmar Refugee Problem : Report
  • Mother :: Poem
  • Minerva Punjab FC to conduct trials
  • Represent the people, not only party
  • When vegetables slowly poison us?
  • Hr Sec Exam 2019 Toppers #2: Gallery
  • Featured Front Page Photo 2019 #2: Gallery
  • Dear Mother :: Poem
  • Youth and Contemporary Issues #3
  • Why are Govt schools lagging behind ?
  • Career option in Veterinary Science
  • Saluting Mothers of the world
  • Will Sharmila have a Third Life ?
  • NE for efforts to address illegal influx
  • Rs 10 coins not acceptable in Manipur!
  • Agri Fair @ CAU #2 : Gallery
  • Khomlen Manglanda - A Play #2 : Gallery
  • AMWJU new terms 2019-2021
  • Run for Raisina Hill
  • Happy Mother's Day
  • Mother's Day
  • Aspiration in Medical Career
  • MPSC : Wallowing in dirt
  • Why the 1st Bird Sanctuary in Thinungei
  • Purnima Moirangthem : 5th in Commerce
  • Respect for a mother
  • Academic excellence is not everything
  • Indo-Naga & other peace talks #6
  • A Dwarfish Whole :: Poem
  • Takayasu Arteritis treated at SKY Hospital
  • Mercury rise: Is it common men fault
  • Ajit Ningthouja :: eRang Photos
  • Had not there been ILPS agitation ? : Story
  • Dance & folk songs of natives of NE #2
  • BJP for NE Community Campaign in Delhi
  • Serou dam-Atypical structure in Chakpi river
  • Benefits of automation in medical laboratory
  • Civil Servant from Matupi hospitalized...
  • Madness on the roads of Imphal
  • Root of peoples' anger to doctors
  • Jiribam Bazaar :: 360 Panorama View
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn Manipuri script
  • Cry of a Dying River - 75 :: Poem
  • What Yoga is & is not ?
  • Rio at General Conference of NSF
  • Make right choice in selecting your campus
  • Suspension Order for 19 NPF Members
  • Festival of marks and more marks
  • ..no worry on condition of Govt Schools
  • Thailand Princess @Kangla #2 :: Gallery
  • Kadigampou, Akeng :: eMing
  • Ningombam Tampha :: 3rd in ISC Exam
  • Our Grammy goes to Thangmeiso Shinglai
  • Call for application from youths
  • Life is not about how far you hang on
  • NERIST admission notice : PG & PhD
  • Seminar at MU : Material Engineering
  • Class XII : Looking beyond Imphal
  • Understanding Consumers' rights
  • HSE : Candidates securing Highest Marks
  • HSE 2019 : Science Stream Result
  • HSE 2019 : Arts Stream Result
  • HSE 2019 : Commerce Stream Result
  • HSE 2019 Toppers : Science
  • HSE 2019 Toppers : Arts
  • HSE 2019 Toppers : Commerce
  • HSE 2019 : Result Abstract
  • HSE 2019 : District Wise
  • Solid waste management in Imphal
  • Naga Ancestral Freedom Movement
  • My franchise for Mom's Primary
  • Bamboo based industries in Manipur
  • Is sugar ageing you
  • Competition among schools
  • Will modification help in solving traffic chaos
  • Cheiraoba Chak Katpa #2 :: Gallery
  • MANFETE 2019 at MU :: Gallery
  • Dance & folk songs of natives of NE #1
  • Indo-Naga & other peace talks #5
  • Ibudhou Oknarel & Khudithibi
  • May Calendar for Year 2019 :: Tools
  • Andro Girls won Doon Cup :: Gallery
  • Tributes on Khongjom Day #2 :: Gallery
  • M Diana: National Women Social Award
  • Handloom show : Robert Naorem & Soma
  • Urmila Shagolsem: Miss India 2019 Finalist
  • Thang Ta @Sangai Fest #5 :: Gallery
  • Indo-Naga & other peace talks #4
  • Yaoshang Halankar #2 :: Gallery
  • Significance of festival: Nanu-Ngai
  • Onetwo Okram - Singer #1 :: eRang
  • Tributes on Khongjom Day #1 :: Gallery
  • Shajibu Cheiraoba @ Pune : Gallery
  • Romita Yumnam : Mrs India Queen
  • Meekap Thokpa Numit #2 : Gallery
  • Tributes to PLA killed #2 : Gallery
  • A talk with Ajit Ningthouja :: eRang
  • LS : Voting for Inner : Gallery
  • Ibendhou Kounu Haraoba #2: Gallery
  • The Killing Fields 2013-18 : News Timeline
  • Sajibu Cheiraoba at Mysore #2: Gallery
  • Voting (PC) @ Kangpokpi #3: Gallery
  • Mittong Khunou: The Battle Honour of INA
  • Thabal Chongba @Khurai : Gallery
  • Manipuri Calendar for 2019 : Download
  • List of Restricted Holidays for 2019
  • List of Public Holidays for 2019
  • List of General Holidays for 2019
  • SPONSORED ADS