Mumbai Police blocked 1,816 objectionable posts related to Covid-19 on social media: State to HCUpdated: Jul 11, 2020 00:47 IST
The Bombay high court (HC) on Friday disposed of a public interest litigation (PIL) which had complained that the Mumbai Police had violated the right to freedom of expression of citizens, by invoking section 144 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) by prohibiting the use of social media platforms to disseminate information.
After the state informed the court through an affidavit that the prohibitory orders had come to an end on June 8 and the order was justified as it had blocked 1,816 posts of objectionable content, the court refused to entertain the petition and disposed of it.
A division bench of justice AA Sayed and justice NR Borkar, while hearing the PIL filed by four persons – a journalist, musician, occupational therapist and information technology professional – through advocates Aditi Saxena and Afreen Khan, was informed that Mumbai Police had violated the rights of citizens guaranteed under the Indian Constitution.
In a bid to curb misinformation and rumours pertaining to the spread of Covid 19 in the city, Mumbai Police had invoked section 144 of the IPC on April 10 and restricted dissemination of information through various messaging and social media platforms. Aggrieved by the prohibition order and its extension on May 23, the petitioners had approached the court on June 1 seeking for it to be set aside. The court, in its earlier hearing on June 5, had directed the state to file an affidavit in response to the plea.
On Friday, when the PIL came up for hearing, advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni and government pleader Poornima Kantharia submitted the state’s affidavit and said that Mumbai Police has kept various social media platforms like under surveillance since the order was passed on April 10 to curb the spread of misinformation and rumours about Covid 19. Kumbhakoni submitted that information spread through these platforms was creating apprehension and panic among people, and hence, it was necessary to impose the prohibitory orders.
Justifying the same, Kumbhakoni read out the affidavit filed by Pranay Ashok, deputy commissioner of police (operations), which said that there was “widespread dissemination of fake news, incorrect information, misinformation and other such objectionable content” on social media platforms.
“Such type of content was found to have caused panic and confusion among the general public, inciting mistrust towards government functionaries and their actions taken to control the Covid-19 pandemic, and also to have created animosity towards various communities,” the affidavit further stated.
It added that in the period from April 10 to June 8, police had blocked 1,816 posts of objectionable content.
In light of these submissions and the fact that the prohibitory orders ended on June 8, Kumbhakoni submitted that as the grievances of the petitioners did not survive, the PIL should be dismissed.
After hearing the submissions and perusing the affidavit, the court said that it was not inclined to entertain the PIL, and disposed of it.