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Mumbai BJP chief Lodha challenges police order making admins liable for misinformation on social media

BJP Mumbai president Mangal Prabhat Lodha sought to set aside the order calling it vague and against the Constitution. He said the order was not based on objective facts and showed the state government’s inability to contain COVID-19 outbreak.

By: Express News Service | Mumbai |
Updated: May 28, 2020 5:01:14 pm
BJP opposition in BMC, BMC BJP Shiv Sena, Mangal Prabhat Lodha, Mumbai city news On October 16, BJP Mumbai unit head Mangal Prabhat Lodha allegedly delivered a communally-charged speech at Mumbadevi.

BJP Mumbai president and South Mumbai MLA Mangal Prabhat Lodha has moved the Bombay High Court challenging the validity of May 23 order of the Mumbai Police making administrators of social media groups personally liable for misinformation and prescribing criminal action against them for spreading “incorrect, distorted information” and “inciting mistrust towards government”.

The order under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which will remain in force until June 8, prohibit citizens from spreading of misinformation on social medial platforms including WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Tiktok, Instagram etc. which could cause panic, confusion and mistrust against government functionaries. It also said that action will be taken against those spreading derogatory messages and discrimination towards particular community.

Lodha filed the plea Tuesday through advocate Hitesh Jain and sought directions to quash the order and said the order is vague and against the Constitution. He said the order was not based on objective facts and passed with mere conjecture and showed state government’s inability to contain COVID-19 outbreak.

“The police order is so vague there are no guidelines for authorities on its implementation and is creating panic and an unjustified and harsh gagging effect on freedom of speech. It is arbitrary, an insidious form of censorship and will have a chilling effect on freedom of speech,” the plea said.

It added, “To punish somebody who has a contrary view or is critical of the government or authorities on the grounds that it amounts to ‘inciting mistrust against the government’ is clearly arbitrary and in “stark violation of Article 19(1) (a) (freedom of speech), Article 14 (equality) and Article 21 (right to life) of the Indian Constitution.”

The plea said that citizens have started expressing their opinions and views on social media platforms. In light of this, Lodha claimed that since none of the restrictions imposed are properly defined, innocent persons can be roped into criminal cases in a ‘whimsical’ application of the order. He stated that public criticism is essential to working of government institutions and ‘open dialogue’ is important for democracy and urged for interim stay on the order pending hearing of the case.

The petitiom is likely to be taken up on Friday.

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