BJP President for Mumbai, Mangal Prabhat Lodha has moved the Bombay Court challenging the constitutionality of the May 23 order passed by the Mumbai Police Commissioner, whereby admins of social media groups were to be made personally liable for misinformation on social media platforms amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The order was passed to curb misinformation on social medial platforms including WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Tiktok, Instagram etc. which was stated to cause panic, confusion and mistrust against government functionaries.
Lodha, however, contended reagarding misinformation that the order was passed with malafide motives, in the wake of the outpour of criticism by the citizens against the state government’s mishandling and inability to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Maharashtra and “with sole intention to ban criticism of government action in the current situation.”
Lodha further submitted that the challenged order, which will remain in force until June 8, was drafted in vague and broad terms, and contains a blanket restriction of free speech which violates the principles of proportionality as laid down in the KS Puttaswamy ruling.
He states, “The State Government has failed to show that the impugned order is in anyway based on objective material. It is evidence that the same has been passed on mere conjecture and in colourable exercised of power in light of the heightened criticism of the State Government’s inability to curb the health emergency.”
Lodhafurther asserts that people have a right to speak their view and that the above mentioned order is manifestly arbitrary, colourable, unreasonable and is a clear violation of Article 19 of the Constitution.
Terming the order an “insidious form of censorship” that would have a chilling effect on the freedom of speech, Lodha also pointed out in case of misinformation that in the absence of any guidelines even innocent conduct would also be brought within the reach of this order.
He submitted, “The impugned circular permits the administering authorities to set a net large enough to catch all possible offenders in the times of COVID-19 and leave it to the Court to step in and see who can or cannot be rightfully detained and who should be set at lieberty.”
In view of the aboveconcernes highlighting misinformation on social media , Lodha has urged the Bombay High Court to quash the challenged order as being violative of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.
Lodha is being represented by Advocate Hitesh Jain of Parinam Law Associates.