The recent judgment by the High Courts of Haryana and Punjab regarding the bail plea by Arvinder Singh, a resident of Pallian Khurd in Nawanshahr states that propaganda and incitement to violence on social media is equivalent to collecting men for waging war against the Government of India. Arvinder Singh is an alleged member of terror group Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) and was arrested in May, 2016. The FIR filed against him stated that that he had arrived from Doha in Qatar 7-8 months earlier and was recruiting youth for “terrorist activities”. The FIR also stated that he was in touch with Pakistan-based BKI activists in Doha where he had gone for employment.
Justice Sandip Ahluwalia, in his June 1 order stated that, even though the accused was not charged under IPC section 122 (collecting arms, etc with intention of waging war against the Government of India) but the material on record could lead to his conviction for that as well. Also that, “Perusal of the material highlighted by the State from the plethora of documents drawn up by way of cyber tracking of petitioner’s alleged communication with the head of terrorist organization indisputably indicate positive incitement for resorting to violence meant for achieving the aforesaid objective of creating the State of ‘Khalistan’”.
According to Article 19 of the Constitution of India, a citizen has the freedom of speech; but is it appropriate to use it injudiciously which can incite violence or disrupt the working of the country? The government has started keeping hawk eyes vigil over the social media to check if it is “misused” to conspire against India and spread anti-national propaganda. Social media according to the government includes- Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Youtube, individual or micro-blogging sites and video blogs. It should be noted that the using of social media to share anti-national or violence inflicting thoughts can be accessed by not just the people of the nation, but the whole world. Such posts may result into a threat to public order, dangerously stirring up religious sensitivities, caste slurs, defamation, etc.
There have been incidences in the past where people got arrested for posting their views and liking posts against the government on social media. e.g. 18 year old Zakir Ali Tyagi from Muzaffarnagar for questioning the Ganga as a “living entity” and discussing BJP’s Ram Mandir plans. A Meerut based Journalist Afghan Soni for posting a derogatory video of Narendra Modi.
Living in a country where people got offended by Padmavati Movie, which they haven’t even seen can cause such a massive protest in the country, then a post against any government, religious entity or practice may cause problems to the government like agitations, riots, pelting, etc. During the agitation by Hardik Patel in Gujarat for getting reservation to the Patel community, there were internet shutdowns in Gujarat to stop the agitation and communication among the agitators. This happened as the government wanted to stop the usage of social media for propagating movement. Due to this, even the people who were not related to the movement could not communicate if they were safe. It should not only be the governments and the social media’s responsibility to block or report such posts but also ours. Thus as responsible citizens of the country and netizens, we must ensure that we post nothing that is anti- national in nature and maintain the peace and harmony of the country.
Sofi Ahsan, Incitement to violence, propognda on social media akin to waging a war against Govt.: HC, Indian Express (Delhi) Wednesday, June 06, 2018