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BJP MLA challenges constitutional validity of Mumbai Police's gag order in Bombay HC

The order states criminal action against the administrators of social media groups for spreading “misinformation” and “inciting mistrust towards government”.

BJP MLA challenges constitutional validity of Mumbai Police's gag order in Bombay HC
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Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Mangal Prabhat Lodha has approached Bombay High Court in order to challenge the constitutional validity of May 23 order passed by Mumbai Police. The order states criminal action against the administrators of social media groups for spreading “misinformation” and “inciting mistrust towards government”. 

The order under section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) prohibits citizens from spreading of misinformation on social media platforms which could cause panic, confusion and mistrust against government functionaries. The order further stated that strong action will be taken against those spreading derogatory messages and discrimination towards a particular community. 

Lodha, BJP MLA from South Mumbai, filed a petition on Tuesday and sought directions to quash the order. The petition said that the order was vague and against the constitution. There are no guidelines for authorities on its implementation and is a harsh gagging effect on freedom of speech, it said. 

The BJP MLA stated that this order was not based on objective facts and showed the state government’s inability to contain the COVID-19 crisis. It was clearly arbitrary to punish somebody who has contrary views or is critical of government or authorities. 

This was in stark violation of Article 19(1) (a) (freedom of speech), Article 14 (equality) and Article 21 (right to life) of the Indian constitution, the petition said while adding that the restrictions imposed are not properly defined and innocent persons can be roped into criminal cases. 

The people have started expressing their opinions and views on social media platforms and innocent persons can be booked under criminal cases on the grounds that the criticism of government or authorities amounts to ‘inciting mistrust against the government’. 

Lodha said that public criticism was essential to working of government institution and open dialogue was important for democracy. The petition urges interim stay on the order. This is likely to be taken up on Friday. 

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