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SC slams police for harassing people over social media posts


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Concerned by the growing trend of police in different states summoning individuals from far corners for social media posts allegedly defaming political dispensations, the Supreme Court on Wednesday sent out a loud message to state governments: “We cannot have citizens hauled from one corner of the country to another for a social media post criticising the government.”

The stern warning was prompted by Bengal Police issuing summons to a Delhi resident who had criticised the state government for non-enforcement of lockdown norms.


Underlining the sanctity of free speech guaranteed to citizens under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution and vowing to protect it at all costs, a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee said, “Do not cross the line. Let India remain a free country. We, as the Supreme Court, are here to protect free speech. The reason why the SC was created by the Constitution is to ensure that ordinary citizens are not harassed by the state.”

Cops summoning from Delhi to Kolkata a harassment: SC

A 29-year-old woman, Roshni Biswas, through advocate Mahesh Jethmalani challenged the issuance of summons to her by police and the Calcutta HC asking her to appear before police for questioning on her Facebook post complaining about large congregations at Raja Bazar area of Kolkata in violation of lockdown norms. Police registered an FIR accusing her of inciting hatred against a particular community. The bench suggested that police could send her questions on email or interrogate her through video-conferencing.

When West Bengal counsel R Basant said she would be questioned and not arrested, the bench said, “This is browbeating a citizen for exercising right to free speech. One can’t be prosecuted for saying the pandemic is not dealt with properly.” He said protecting her from answering summons of police would set a dangerous precedent. But Jethmalani said the intention of Kolkata police was to summon her before them and intimidate her.

The state government counsel’s insistence that she must appear before police invited more caustic comments from the court. “It is like saying how dare a citizen write something against the government, we will haul her up by summoning her from any part of the country. The part of the post attributed to her said thousands of people came out in Raja Bazar area in violation of lockdown norms,” it said.

“Summoning her from Delhi to Kolkata is sheer harassment. Tomorrow, police from Kolkata, Mumbai, Manipur and Chennai will summon people from all parts of India to send a chilling message — you want freedom of speech, we will teach you a lesson,” it said.

The bench agreed to Basant’s middle path approach that the investigating officer from Kolkata would travel to Delhi to question her. It asked her to cooperate in the probe.

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