Taking note of the growing trend where police is misusing the power and summoning people from the far corners of the country over social media posts alleged to be defaming in nature, Supreme Court has slammed the West Bengal police and asked it not to cross the line.
West Bengal police had issued a summon to a Delhi resident over her Facebook post where she had criticized the state government response to the pandemic and improper implementation of lockdown norms.
With pulling up Bengal police, the apex court has also sent a loud message to all the state governments, “We cannot have citizens hauled from one corner of the country to another for a social media post criticizing the government.”
The bench comprising Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice Indira Banerjee underlined the sanctity of free speech guaranteed under Article 19 (1)(a) by Constitution of India and stated that they are going to protect it at any cost.
“Do not cross the line. Let India remain a free country. We, as the Supreme Court, are here to protect free speech. The reason why the SC was created by the Constitution is to ensure that ordinary citizens are not harassed by the state,” the bench said.
SC considers summoning a Delhi resident over a social media post alleging it to be defaming the government, to appear in Kolkata nothing more than harassment. “Summoning her from Delhi to Kolkata is sheer harassment. Tomorrow, police from Kolkata, Mumbai, Manipur, and Chennai will summon people from all parts of India to send a chilling message — you want freedom of speech, we will teach you a lesson,” the court said.
The court further stated, “It is like saying how dare a citizen write something against the government, we will haul her up by summoning her from any part of the country. The part of the post attributed to her said thousands of people came out in Raja Bazar area in violation of lockdown norms.”
29-year old Roshni Biswas from Delhi has challenged the summon issued against her by West Bengal police and Calcutta High Court to appear before the police for questioning over her social media post in which she talked about the violation of lockdown norms by a large congregation in the Raja Bazar area of Kolkata. An FIR was lodged against her by the West Bengal police for inciting hatred against a particular community.
She had challenged the summon through senior counsel Ramesh Jethmalani and lawyer Arunima Dwivedi. Advocate Jethmalani told the court that their only intention was to summon her before them and intimidate her.
State counsel R Basant commented that she will only be interrogated and will not be arrested. He also stated that protecting her from responding to the summon would set a dangerous precedent.
The bench stated, “This is browbeating a citizen for exercising right to free speech. One can’t be prosecuted for saying the pandemic is not dealt with properly.” SC bench advised that police can interrogate her through video conferencing and e-mails too.