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Introduce stricter norms for provocative social media posts: Bombay HC

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Mumbai, Aug 22: Bombay HC said the state government must introduce "a regime of conduct with stricter norms" to address inflammatory social media posts.

Introduce stricter norms for provocative social media posts: Bombay HC

The court said this over a PIL seeking removal of allegedly communally charged videos and a permanent ban on the offender from social media.

Freedom of speech must be exercised "rationally for fair and constructive criticism," the court added.

The court says, in the name of the exercise of a right, the liberty of free speech is being abused in bad faith.

People may exercise a degree of restraint on liberty of free speech and expression during "testing times" such as the Covid-19 pandemic, added the court.

Mumbai resident Imran Moin Khan filed a PIL, seeking to take down allegedly communally charged videos, uploaded on social media by a supporter of a political party, and that preventive action be taken against the person by permanently blocking access to social media.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Madhav Jamdar made these observations over the PIL.

The court refused to give any directions to police for taking any such preventive action, instead, it directed the nodal officer under the IT Act to decide whether the petitioner's complaint is worthy of being taken to its logical conclusion.

Chief Justice Datta observed, "The right cannot be exercised to sow seeds of hatred and to create disharmony among religious communities. Since inflammatory posts/messages have the potential of disturbing public peace and tranquility, strong action ought to be taken against those responsible to uphold the high values aimed at by the Constitution."

"In a secular country like India, citizens of different religions should feel assured that they can live in peace with persons practising other religions. Regrettably, a trend is clearly discernible that in the name of exercise of a right, the liberty of free speech is being abused with bad faith," he added.

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