Last year, two erudite Honourable Judges of the Supreme Court of India namely Justice F.Nariman and Justice Chelmeshwar heard a case filed by one Ms Shreya Singhal on the misuse of Facebook. These were cases where the Police had interpreted the Section 66A wrongly and arrested some innocent persons who had posted some innocuous political comments in the Facebook or twitter. (Read the details here)
Section 66A was not meant to address these offences and the cases filed were wrong ab-initio. However, in a bid to become the “Champions of Free Speech” the case was filed and again erudite lawyers argued on behalf of the petitioner and convinced the Judges that Section 66A of ITA 2008 was against the constitutional right of “Free Speech” and should be removed. The Judges were ferocious in their response against the current Government which meekly defended the law passed by the previous Government and scrapped the section. They did not agree even to consider explaining the context in which the section could be applied and the context in which it should not be applied. They said vociferously that the section was not drafted properly and had to go. In the bargain, they showed their anger against the Government and the Parliamentary law makers which was lapped up in the same spirit by the anti Government media as fodder to criticize the Government.
The erudite Government attorneys did not properly defend the case and allowed the decision which was interpreted by the public in the following manner.
- Anything posted on Facebook is “Free Speech” and there is a constitutional guarantee that such free speech should be protected.
Public did not understand that the Police had made a mistake and arrested innocent persons under Section 66A of ITA 2008 though they were exercising their right to “Free Speech” and it was the law to be blamed.
Court as well as the public did not perceive that those to be blamed were perhaps the erring policemen who made the arrests, the erring prosecutors who advised them wrongly, the erring magistrates who committed the accused to imprisonment wrongly and the erring higher Courts including the High Court and the Supreme Courts which did not suo moto jump in to stop the wrongful arrests.
The human right activists and the media anchors gloated over the “Victory for Free Speech” and hailed the judges as saviours of Indian democracy and added fuel to the spreading of the wrong message. What these people deliberately failed to recognize is that the decision had created a general perception that
” It is Ok to defame people on Facebook and WhatsApp and law protects it as Free Speech”
Naavi was a minority voice to say that Supreme Court was making a mistake since
a) Section 66A had been wrongly applied to the cases under consideration of the Court
b) If necessary, the section could be read down properly
c) The section had several other uses and if necessary only a part of the section was under dispute in the case and there was no need for the entire section with sub clauses (a), (b) and (c) to be removed.
( For those who want to know more about this , kindly see this page )
Since this infamous decision of the Supreme Court, Police are confused as to what to do when a “Facebook Crime” is referred to them. If it cannot be booked under Cyber Crime, then they donot know which section of IPC is appropriate and hence there is a delay in swinging into action on such complaints. This could be one of the reasons why the small town police in Salem could not do much in the first 15 days after the complaint was filed in the case of the Salem girl who got frustrated and committed suicide.
Now I want all these “erudite” Judges, Lawyers, Petitioners, Human Right Activists and Media personalities which includes the Arnob Goswamis, Rahul Kanwals, Barkhadatts and Rajdeep Sardesais, to look at the consequence of their folly in the unfortunate death of a girl in Salem who committed suicide because some deviant person posted morphed defamatory pictures on the Facebook and sent them by SMS/WhatsApp to the girl.
The blood of this innocent girl is on the hands of all these erudite persons and I wish they carry this guilt to their grave.