Updated: January 23, 2021 7:10:34 am
In a move that has been described as “draconian and unwarranted” by the Opposition, Bihar Police have issued a circular warning that those making “objectionable and indecent” comments online against the state government, Ministers, MLAs, MPs and officials can be booked under the IT Act and the Indian Penal Code.
“We have been, of late, getting information about the use of objectionable and indecent language being used against the government, Ministers, MPs, MLAs and government officials through social media/ Internet. This is against provisions of the law and comes under the domain of cyber crime… For this act, it is apt to take action against such offenders,” states the circular issued by Bihar Police’s Economic Offences Unit (EOU).
The circular, which is dated January 21 and signed by Additional DGP (EOU and Cyber Crime) N H Khan, has been sent to principal secretaries and secretaries of all state government departments. It states that the EOU is the nodal agency for cyber crime, and that all principal secretaries and secretaries should bring “such matters” to its notice so that “action can be initiated”.
Reacting sharply to the circular, RJD leader and Leader of Opposition Tejashwi Prasad Yadav tweeted that “in the birthplace of the Republic”, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar “has been ripping apart democratic values”.
Yadav said the Opposition will not allow the JD(U)-BJP government to “take away democratic rights of the people”.
JD(U) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar said the government’s move is in accordance with the law and will “apply to everyone”. “There is nothing offensive about it,” he said.
ADGP Khan later said police will not take any suo motu action. “We will take action only if there is a complaint against anyone. Under existing legal provisions, anyone making objectionable remarks can be booked under IPC sections 409, 420 and 467, and under IT Act provisions,” he said.
Government sources told The Indian Express that the trigger for the circular can be traced to “objectionable comments” posted on some digital platforms against a District Magistrate and a principal secretary in connection with the investigation in the murder in Patna this month of Indigo executive Rupesh Singh.
The Bihar move comes two months after the Kerala government said it will “not go ahead with implementing” a controversial amendment to the Kerala Police Act to mandate a jail term for any “offensive” social media post following a hailstorm of criticism from across the political spectrum, including the ruling CPM and its LDF alliance.
Last month, hearing a plea filed by a 38-year-old woman who was booked by Maharashtra Police for allegedly making offensive remarks on social media against Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and his son Aaditya in July, the Bombay High Court said that a “public office in a democracy” has to face criticism.
Maharashtra Police had registered several FIRs against individuals who posted allegedly defamatory content on social media against Thackeray and his son. All these FIRs were filed after the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput in June, when police claimed “coordinated attacks” were launched against the Chief Minister and the state government.
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