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Punjab and Haryana High Court: While addressing a bail application under Section 439  CrPC, 1973, the Single Judge bench of Sudip Ahluwalia J., explained the fundamental nature and essence of the constituents that would amount to waging war in respect of social media platforms.

The brief facts of the case state that the petitioner was charged under Sections 121/121-A of IPC and Sections 10 and 13 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.  For the charged offences petitioner claims that they are not established on prosecution material.

The contentions on behalf of the petitioner which have been placed before the court take reliance from the decision of the Apex Court in , Balwant Singh v. State of Punjab, (1995) 3 SCC 214, in which conviction was placed upon for the offences under Sections 124-A and 153-A Indian Penal Code, 1860 and was further set aside by stating that “The learned trial Judge, to say the least, seems to have drawn upon his imagination a course not permissible for a Court of Law.”

The counter placed on behalf of the State was that, petitioner’s involvement was not only in propaganda and inciting people to resort to violence leading to waging war against the Government of India, in fact, it also constituted provocative messages from leaders of terrorist groups based in Pakistan on social media/ facebook which is accessible to innumerable people around the world.

Therefore, the Hon’ble High Court on noting the facts of the case stated that in the present case the reliance placed by the petitioner on the case of Balwant Singh v. State of Punjab, (1995) 3SCC 214 would not be applied. In the instant case the incitement is on social media platform which is accessible to the world and not just a limited crowd as was the case in the relied case of the Supreme Court, further bail was not granted and the petitioner was stated to be liable under Section 122 of IPC which is at par punishable with Section 121-A for which he is already facing trial. [Arvinder Singh v. State of Punjab, 2018 SCC OnLine P&H 762, dated 01-06-2018]

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Supreme Court: In the plea filed by a man whose wife and daughter were allegedly gangraped in July last year on a highway near Bulandshahar, seeking transfer of the case to Delhi and lodging of an FIR against former Uttar Pradesh Minister Azam Khan for his controversial statement that the gangrape case was a “political conspiracy”, the bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and AM Khanwilkar and Dr. DY Chandrachud, JJ referred the matter to a five-judge constitution bench to decide the question as to whether a public functionary or a minister can claim freedom of speech while airing views in a sensitive matter which is under investigation.

The Court also expressed concern over the misuse of social media platforms and said that people disseminated wrong information even about the court proceedings. Senior Advocate Fali S. Nariman, who is assisting the bench as an amicus curiae, submitted before the Court that a lot of misinformation and abuses are there on social media platforms and he has stopped looking at them. To this, Senior Advocate Harish Salve added that he had deleted his Twitter account.

The Bulandshahar rape case happened on the night of July 29 last year when a group of highway robbers stopped the car of a Noida-based family and sexually assaulted a woman and her daughter after dragging them out of the vehicle at gun-point. Azam Khan had, in a public address, termed the entire incident as a “political conspiracy only and nothing else”. Harish Salve submitted before the Court that ministers cannot have personal views on official business matters as whatever the person says, must reflect government policy.

Last year, on 29.08.2016, the Bench of Dipak Misra and C. Nagappan, JJ had asked Fali S. Nariman to assist the Court in determining, inter alia, whether the fundamental right of speech and expression would be governed under reasonable restriction of decency or morality or whether other preferred fundamental rights would also have an impact on it.

Source: PTI