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‘Treatment worse than disease’: Delhi HC on pre-censorship plea on Facebook

Jan 31, 2024 10:06 PM IST

The high court ruled that since there was a robust grievance redressal mechanism in place, the petitioners have an alternative efficacious remedy for objectionable posts

NEW DELHI: A suggestion that there should be prior censorship of any material on Rohingyas on Facebook is an example of a treatment that is worse than the disease, the Delhi high court has observed as it disposed of a petition that sought removal of hateful content targeting Rohingyas on Facebook.

FILE PHOTO: Meta Platforms said the government has formulated a complete regulatory network which specifically deals with the issue of hate speeh (REUTERS)

“This court is also of the opinion that the petitioners suggestion, during the hearing, that there should be prior censorship of any publication of Rohingyas on Facebook is an example of ‘a treatment that is worse than the disease,” a bench of acting chief justice Manmohan and justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora in its January 30 order. The judgment was uploaded to the high court’s website on Wednesday.

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The plea filed by two Rohingya refugees, Mohammed Hamim and Kawsar Mohammad, who fled persecution in Myanmar and reached India in 2018 and 2022, respectively, stated the community was facing physical threats owing to the alleged dissemination of violent hate remarks targeting them based on their ethnicity and religion on Facebook.

The bench said the relief sought against FB was not maintainable as the two did not allege in the petition that the social media platform failed to abide by the IT Rules.

“It is further settled law that where an Act provides a complete machinery for redressal the aggrieved party is not permitted to abandon that machinery to invoke jurisdiction of High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution,” a bench said.

Senior lawyer Arvind P Datar, who appeared for Meta, said the government has formulated a complete regulatory network which specifically deals with the issue of hate speech. In November 2023 alone, he said the respondents have pulled down more than 1 lakh objectionable posts. He added that the relief sought by the petitioners is in the nature of pre-publication censorship which is not within their domain.

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