Mumbai: Justifying the Mumbai Police’s organization that specifies criminal activity against anybody spreading false and fake news via social media, the Maharashtra government told the Bombay High Court that sensible limitations can be forced to safeguard public order.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Amjad Sayed was on Friday hearing two public interest litigations (PILs) challenging the legality of an order dated May 23, passed by the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Operations).
The order said that action would be taken against any person, who spreads incorrect, fake news on social media.
It further said that any person who holds the ‘Admin’ position of any social media group, shall be held personally liable for dissemination of any false or incorrect messages circulated in the group.
According to the petitions filed by advocate Sheshanath Mishra and independent journalist and co-founder of NGO ‘Free Speech Collective’ Geeta Seshu, the order violates the rights of citizens guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India (right to freedom of speech and expression).
Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, appearing for the government, however, contended that the order is “perfectly” legal in view of Article 19(2) of the Constitution, which authorises the government to impose reasonable restrictions upon freedom of speech and expression in the interest of public order.
The court noticed that the issue requires to be inspected despite the fact that a plain perusing of the request uncovers that its legitimacy is powerful just till June 8, 2020 and guided the government to file an affidavit within three weeks.
The petition filed by Mishra claimed that the police order aims to muzzle the voice of common citizens and prevent them from criticising the government’s handling of the pandemic.
Seshu’s counsel Mihir Desai argued that the police have not followed due procedure prescribed under section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code.