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Finally the Supreme Court stops indiscriminate arrests over online posts ..




Over the past few months, there has been a lot of controversy over the stand of the police with regard to the comments of people on social networks. Could you imagine that a Tweet that you sent, or a comment that you made in a Facebook post, or even liking another post, seemingly innocuous actions, would land you in police custody ? Well, most people would consider that any statement that they made on Facebook would be part of their rights as a citizen, and how if such a statement was not something illegal (such as being part of a terror network or being part of some kind of porn network), then they could very well almost say what they wanted. Even if they did say anything against a person, that person could file a complaint and it would be a civil complaint. Hence, it was a big shock last year over what the Maharashtra Government did. A young lady had made a post about how it was ridiculous that the city of Mumbai had shut down over the funeral of Bal Thackeray, and soon after, there was a case against her in the police station, and the police actually arrested her, and also arrested another young lady who had liked the post. Another example where somebody was arrested for a tweet against the son of the Union Finance Minister, Chidambaram.
This incident caused shock in the country, and they were released from jail soon after. There was an inquiry, and it was revealed that the local police station head had taken action on this without consulting his superiors, and taken action on the basis of pressure from the Shiv Sena. So, the police, instead of protecting the rights of the innocent and the pressured, instead acted on the pressure of the mob and took action that was later acknowledged by the political administration to be illegal. There was an advisory issued soon after by the Central Government under the IT Act, under which state Governments were supposed to get approval from their senior police officials before taking action (since law and order and the police act under the state government and not the central Government).
However, this advisory seems to have been ignored, since there were more arrests again and again based on posts that people made on Facebook. The common thread in all this was that such actions were taken where the person against whom the posts were made were those in authority or close to those in authority. Because of a lot of recent controversy, these arrests and the overall principle was bound to be taken to the courts and the Supreme Court has now issued a direction to state governments that no arrests can take place on such issues without the approval of senior police officers. The advisory of the center could be ignored, but now that the Supreme Court has issued such an advisory, it would be far more uncomfortable for the state government to arrest, even though the police is still with them. In the light of recent other cases where the courts have taken up police actions for review, things get more uncomfortable for the police and their politician masters if they try to take such action (link to article):

The apex court, which refused to pass an order for a blanket ban on the arrest of a person for making objectionable comments on websites, said state governments should ensure strict compliance of the Centre’s January 9 advisory which said that a person should not be arrested without taking permission from senior police officials. “We direct the state governments to ensure compliance with the guidelines (issued by Centre) before making any arrest,” a bench of justices B S Chauhan and Dipak Misra said.
She had filed the PIL after two girls – Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Shrinivasan – were arrested in Palghar in Thane district under section 66A of IT Act after one of them posted a comment against the shutdown in Mumbai following Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray’s death and the other ‘liked’ it. On November 30, 2012, the apex court had sought response from the Centre on the amendment and misuse of section 66A of IT Act and had also directed the Maharashtra government to explain the circumstances under which the 21-year-old girls were arrested.




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