SC: Take permissions before arrest for posts on Social Media

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Social Media Saga:Approval before arrest
New Delhi, May 16: After a long aching era of arresting people from different parts of the country for the "heinous" crime of posting objectionable content on social networking sites, from tweets about ministers to funny illustrations about the way our country is functioning, there is some "Good News". The Supreme Court on Thursday said that no person should be arrested for posting objectionable comments on social networking sites without taking prior permission from senior police officials.

The apex court, which refused to pass an order for a blanket ban on the arrest of a person for making objectionable comments on websites, said state governments should ensure strict compliance of the Centre's 9 January advisory which said that a person should not be arrested without taking permission from senior police officials.

"We direct the state governments to ensure compliance with the guidelines (issued by Centre) before making any arrest," a bench of justices B S Chauhan and Dipak Misra said.

It said the court cannot pass an order for banning all arrest in such cases as operation of section 66A (pertaining to objectionable comments) of the Information Technology Act has not been stayed by the apex court which is examining its constitutional validity.

The advisory issued by the Centre says that, "State governments are advised that as regard to arrest of any person in complaint registered under section 66A of the Information Technology Act, the concerned police officer of a police station may not arrest any person until she/he has obtained prior approval of such arrest from an officer, not below the rank of Inspector General of Police (IGP) in metropolitan cities or of an officer not below the rank of Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) or Superintendent of Police (SP) at district level, as the case may be."

In view of public outrage over people being arrested for making comments or liking posts on Facebook, Centre had on 9 January issued advisory to all states and UTs asking them not to arrest a person in such cases without prior approval of a senior police officer.

Aseem Trivedi was arrested in November 2011 on charges of sedition for displaying objectionable cartoons during the Anna Hazare protest in the Bandra-Kurla complex. The arrest was carried out on the basis of a complaint filed by Amit Katarnayea, a legal advisor for a Mumbai-based NGO.

In February, a government official was arrested for allegedly posting objectionable content about Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Union Minister Kapil Sibal on social networking website Facebook.

In November last year, two Mumbai girls were arrested for allegedly writing objectionable comments relating to late Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray.

The arrests had sparked nation-wide anger among the civil society activists who had accused the administrations of misusing the IT Act.

With inputs from PTI

OneIndia News

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