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Saturday, November 28, 2020

SC slams Bengal cops for summons to Delhi resident over FB post on lockdown

The bench allowed the state’s request to let the investigating officer travel to Delhi if need be for questioning.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Updated: October 30, 2020 6:49:10 am
west bengal news, bengal lockdown, bengal police delhi resident FB summon, delhi resident FB post on bengal police, delhi city newsSupreme Court (File)

Cautioning against misuse of the police’s summoning power to harass people critical of government policies on social media, the Supreme Court has slammed West Bengal police for its notice to a Delhi resident over Facebook posts questioning enforcement of Covid lockdown in Kolkata’s Raja Bazar area.

Ordering an ad-interim stay of the Calcutta High Court order asking petitioner Roshni Biswas to appear before the investigating officer of Ballygunge police station, a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee observed Wednesday that it “cannot have citizens hauled from one corner of the country to another for a social media post criticising the government”.

The stay, the court said, is subject to the condition that the petitioner “undertakes to respond to any queries that may be addressed to her by the Investigating Officer”.

The bench allowed the state’s request to let the investigating officer travel to Delhi if need be for questioning.

Justice Chandrachud said, “A market place of ideas should flourish…Do not cross the line. Let India remain a free country. The Supreme Court is here to protect free speech… The police should concern themselves with the major issues of law and order where their presence is required and not over what a citizen said on social media.”

The court said summoning the petitioner to Kolkata is “sheer harassment”.

Appearing for the petitioner, Senior Advocate Mahesh Jethmalani said the woman had stated on oath that she disclaims any association with the Facebook post and that she does not operate the web page which forms the subject matter of the FIR. Jethmalani questioned the notice issued under Section 41A of CrPC.

Section 41A deals with power of a police officer to issue notice to a person “against whom a reasonable complaint has been made, or credible information has been received, or a reasonable suspicion exists that he has committed a cognizable offence, to appear before” the officer “or at such other place as may be specified in the notice”.

Senior Advocate R Basant, appearing for West Bengal, referred to earlier judgements to argue that courts should not interfere with the course of investigation.

According to the FIR, which “relies on Facebook links”, the “posts imply that (i) the State administration was going soft on the violation of the lock down at Rajabazar as the area is predominantly inhibited by a particular community and; (ii) that the State administration is complacent while dealing with lock down violations caused by a certain segment of the community”.

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