KOCHI: After the Supreme Court struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, the law enforcing agencies are in a dilemma over initiating stringent action on the complaints related to defamation through social media. At the same time, a section of legal experts pointed out expressing an opinion through social media is also part of Freedom of Expression ensured in the Constitution.
Legal experts said social media posts are influencing the common man, juries and other officials in formulating an opinion. There is no method to control or check such messages and groups. Even though the police had made restrictions on groups in WhatsApp, no such prosecution can be made against persons posting their opinion even in the form of a troll.
However, the court had initiated a contempt of court case against former Minister K C Joseph for allegedly posting contemptuous remarks on his Facebook page about a sitting judge.
The contempt of court proceedings was initiated based on a complaint by CPM leader V Sivankutty. Joseph criticised the judge who had observed the functioning of the Advocate General’s office in the state was not efficient and it needed to be recouped. Later, the court dropped the proceedings, considering the unconditional apology tendered.
Pramod Y T, S I Cyber Cell of the Kochi City Police, said after the Supreme Court struck down 66 A of the IT Act and 118 (D) of the Kerala Police Act, the police are slapping 120(O) (causing, through any means of communication, a nuisance of himself to any person by repeated or undesirable or anonymous call, letter, writing, message, e-mail or through a messenger) of the KP Act and relevant sections of IT Act in these cases. “Besides, in the complaints pertaining to outrage the modesty of women by posting abusive comments, lewd remarks, section 67 (A) of the IT Act is being imposed,” he said.
Manoj Abraham, IG Thiruvananthapuram Range, who is also the Nodal Officer of the Cyber Dome, said after the Right of Privacy came into effect, all criticisms on social media platforms will not come under cyber crimes. Only life threats, abusive and lewd comments invite legal action. Everyone can raise their protest voice in the cyber world, but it should not have a criminal background. The police is slapping relevant sections of the IPC and the IT Act in these cases,” he said.
No one can curb free speech
Freedom of speech and expression is a cherished right in all democratic countries. Democracy can flourish only where its citizens enjoy full freedom of speech and expression subject to reasonable restriction provided in the Constitution. It is the basic principle of this guaranteed right that the widest possible dissemination of information is essential to the welfare of the people. V T Balram MLA made some comments on social media which irked CPM leaders and a complaint was made to the Speaker. He issued a notice seeking an explanation. The Speaker has no power to restrict MLAs’ free speech outside the house.
- Asaf Ali, former Director General of Prosecution