Stating that many individuals on Youtube are propagating “wrong and deceitful” information, the Madras High Court has said that the use of digital media “to vent ire” against constitutional functionaries and senior officers of the state and centre government “would not only be a personal attack on their privacy and prestige” but would also damage their reputation and have cascading effect on their work.
“The opinion among the public about the said officials would be blown to smithereens, which would not be in the interest of the Nation,” Justice M. Dhandapani said.
The court at the outset noted that a decade and a half ago, it was only the print media which would disseminate news. The media was very conscious of their reporting, which resulted in the citizens being fed with good information, the court said.
“But the emergence of the digital media, more especially the social media platforms, and coupled with the rights that have been vested on the citizens by the Constitution, not having been understood properly, the citizens, through the various social media platforms cause havoc to the nation and degrade the credibility and respect which the other countries around the globe have on Mother India,” it added.
Social Media Surveillance
The court on January 29 in 2020 had directed the state Director General of Police to constitute separate, dedicated and special cell in each Station House, both at District Level as well as State Level for tracking the “unscrupulous offenders”, who “post filthy and derogatory messages/videos in the social media not only against the constitutional functionaries and high officials in the State and Central Government, but also against the common man”
The Electronics Corporation of Tamil Nadu, which had been asked to invite bids for purchase of equipment for surveillance of social media, on October 18 told the court that tenders have been received and they will be opened within a week, adding that a report regarding it will be filed before the court by next date of hearing.
“The said statement is recorded and the respondents are directed to take steps for procuring the equipments upon opening of the tender and establish the Special Cells at the earliest, as the matter has been on board of this Court for more than a year and half without much progress having been made in the constitution and functioning of the Special Cells, which were directed to be constituted,” said the court.
The bench further said it had directed the constitution of Special Cells so that as and when complaints are received, the same could be dealt with and “the scurrilous acts” could be nipped in the bud.
“This Court is not pointing out any particular instance or channel that castigates the individuals and the officials in the State and Central Government and the constitutional functionaries,” it said.
The court added that it could “wield its judicial power to curb the menace” and maintain the “social decorum and harmony” in the society but it is the duty of the law enforcing agencies to be more vigilant and come to the rescue of the affected persons, rather than putting it on the head of the Court to interfere in each and every single instance.
“Only with that view in mind this Court had constituted the Special Cells and, therefore, the operation of the Special Cells at the earliest is of utmost importance,” said the court.
Seeking a comprehensive report from the DGP and for considering the report of the Electronics Corporation, the court listed the matter for hearing on November 02.
The court has been passing the orders regarding constitution of special cells in a bail matter of a person, who was accused of posting “defamatory, abusive and unsubstantiated statements not only against an advocate “but also against a serving Judge of this Court and the entire Judicial system”.
Click here to read/download the order