“Posting & sharing unhealthy materials with unparliamentary language and remarks, etc. on social media without any solid basis cause a deleterious effect on society at large, ergo in order to protect reputation and character of individuals, it should be completely stopped.”

Allahabad High Court: Sanjay Kumar Singh, J., expressed that, 

“The internet and social media has become an important tool through which individuals can exercise their right to freedom of expression but the right to freedom of expression comes with its own set of special responsibilities and duties.”

On 28-11-2019, OP 2 had lodged an FIR against the applicant and two others, which had been registered under Section 67 of the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008 and Section 500 of the Penal Code, 1860.

Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate took cognizance on 22-7-2020 and summoned the applicant to face trial under Section 67 Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008 and Section 500 IPC.

In the present application, the above-said charge sheet and summoning order were challenged.

Analysis, Law and Decision

High Court found that as per allegations levelled in the FIR, a morphed photo showing Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi shaking hands with dreaded and wanted terrorist Hafiz Saeed was posted on Facebook in the name of Anil Sharma and said objectionable post in question was shared by the applicant.

Similarly, another post (a morphed photograph), in the name of the supporter of Akhilesh Yadav, which was posted showing Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Cabinet Minister Amit Shah were feeding biscuits to dogs, on whom “Aaj Tak TV”, “Zee TV” and “India TV” was written was also shared by the applicant on his Facebook ID.

Bench opined that at the stage of summoning the accused, the lower court was not required to go into the merit and demerit of the case. The genuineness or otherwise of the allegations cannot be even determined at the stage of summoning the accused. The appreciation of evidence is a function of the trial court.

Further, the Court added that, this Court in the exercise of power under Section 482 CrPC cannot assume each jurisdiction and put an end to the process of trial provided under the law.

Court did not find the present matter to eb falling in categories recognised by the Supreme Court for quashing the criminal proceeding of the trial court at the pre-trial stage.

High Court in view of the facts and circumstances and nature of allegations found that the cognizable offence was made out. Therefore, Court did not find any ground to provoke inherent power under Section 482 CrPC by this Court.

Additionally, the Bench stated that Court is of the view that it is beyond the shadow of doubt that social media is global platform for the exchange of thoughts, opinions and ideas.

The Court remarked that there is an immediate need to check the exploitation of social media platforms that has political and societal reverberations that go well beyond hacked systems and stolen identities.

“Use of Cyberspace by some people to vent out their anger and frustration by travestying the Prime Minister, Key- figures holding the highest office in the country or any other individual is abhorrent and violates the right to reputation of others.”

It was also added that, High Courts are sentinels of justice with extraordinary and inherent power to ensure that rights and reputation of people are duly protected.

Lastly, the Bench held that in view of the gravity and nature of the offence as well as misuse of social media platforms, Court cannot shut its eyes. The Government is also not expected to act as a silent perpetrator.

Therefore Court directed the Government to take appropriate remedial measures in order to control and eradicate proliferating and booming devastating menace, to stop the misuse of social media platforms and to maintain a healthy atmosphere in the society, which is the most important and essential factor for a civilized society.

In view of the above, the application was disposed of. [Niyaz Ahmad Khan v. State of U.P., 2022 SCC OnLine All 105, decided on 21-2-2022]

Advocates before the Court:

Counsel for Applicant: Jitendra Kumar Srivastava

Counsel for Opposite Party: G.A.

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