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1,816 misleading and objectionable content pertaining to COVID-19 blocked on social media: Mumbai Police tells Bombay High Court

The submission was made in an affidavit filed before the Court in response to PILs challenging an order that made social media group admins personally responsible for misinformation related to COVID-19 on their platforms

Rintu Mariam Biju

The Bombay High Court yesterday dismissed two Public Interest Litigations (PILs) challenging that the Constitutionality of the May 23 order passed by the Mumbai Police Commissioner, whereby admins of social media groups were made made personally liable for misinformation on such platforms amid the COVID-19 pandemic (Geetha Sesu vs Commissioner of Police).

The Mumbai police submitted before the Division bench comprising of Justices AA Sayed and Justice MS Karnik that the order passed under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) had ceased to operate after June 8, 2020.

The Court was further informed that no prohibitory orders under Section 144, CrPC was passed after June 8. Therefore, the Division Bench dismissed the PILs stating that,

"In light of the above, we are now not inclined to entertain the PIL. The PIL is accordingly dismissed. It would be open for the Petitioner to file a fresh PIL in the event such prohibitory order is issued in future. The issue of validity of such order is kept open."

Bombay High Court

In the affidavit filed by Deputy Commissioner of Police, Pranaya Ashok, the Court was also informed that about 1,816 misleading and objectionable content pertaining to COVID-19 were blocked on social media by the Police.

It was asserted that the prohibitory order was issued to curb widespread dissemination of fake news, incorrect information and misinformation in the form of messages, videos, memes etc., which was causing a lot of confusion and panic among the general public.

As there was an apprehension that certain miscreants may cause problems in the society, the May 23 order was issued, it was submitted by the police.

In a bid to curb misinformation and swirling rumours pertaining to the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Mumbai Police had invoked Section 144, CrPC on April 10 to restrict the dissemination of information through various messaging and social media platforms.

Later, another order was issued on May 23 that extended the prohibition till June 8.

Earlier, BJP President for Mumbai, Mangal Prabhat Lodha had moved the Bombay High Court challenging the Constitutionality of the May 23 order.

[Read orders here]

Bombay HC - Covid 144 order.pdf
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Bombay HC - Covid 144 order (Geeta).pdf
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