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Mumbai Police order making Group Admins personally liable for misinformation on Social Media amid COVID-19 challenged in Bombay High Court

The plea moved by BJP State President Mangal Prabhat Lodha terms the order as an "insidious form of censorship" that would have a chilling effect on the freedom of speech.

Angelenne

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 made made personally liable for misinformation on such platforms amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Mangal Prabhat Lodha WP - Bombay High Court)

The Mumbai Police order under challenge
The Mumbai Police order under challenge

The order was passed with the intention to curb the spread of misinformation on social medial platforms including WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Tiktok, Instagram etc. which was stated to be likely to cause panic, confusion and mistrust against government functionaries.

Lodha, however, contends that the order was passed with malafide motives, in the wake of an outpour of criticism by the State's 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 goes on to argue that the challenged order, which is to remain in force until June 8, was drafted in vague and broad terms, and cotnans a blanket restriction of free speech which violates the principles of proportionality as laid down in the KS Puttaswamy ruling.

“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.”
Mangal Prabhat Lodha

Lodha goes on to assert that people have a right to speak their view and that the challenged 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 raises concern that in the absence of any guidelines even innocent conduct would also be brought within the reach of the order.

"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."
Mangal Prabhat Lodha

In view of these concernes, Lodha has urged the Bombay High Court to quash the challenged order as being violative of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.

The petition for Lodha has been filed by Advocate Hitesh Jain of Parinam Law Associates.

Read the petition:

Mangal Prabhat Lodha WP - Bombay HC.pdf
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