District Magistrate of Indore has recently passed an order prohibiting the publishing of rumors, including commenting and sharing, on social media platforms related to an exchange of old currency notes. The reason for the decision is that such rumors can disturb the public peace. The order has implemented and will effective till January 12, 2017.
NGO demands to rescind the order by sending a legal notice to the magistrate
The effect of this move is to suspend a suspension of people’s fundamental right to speech. Internet Freedom Foundation, the organization known for its ‘Save-the-Internet’ campaign for net neutrality, has sent a legal notice (under Section 144(5) of the CrPC)to the Magistrate, Justice Narahari, requesting him to rescind his order.
According to the order, people will only be to make or share messages related to the exchange of currency notes with a legal basis. The motive of this effect is to curb any opinions, discussions or criticism of the demonetization move.
People who share anything like offensive photographs or content related to the exchange of money would be considered as offensive or illegal. Messaging, forwarding, commenting or liking any such social media post is also count as an offense. A person who acts against the order may be sent behind the bars or a fine of Rs 200.
Although, the order has not been passed under information Technology laws but under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code 1973. This section is used, for instance, to prevent unlawful assemblies, in the riot like situations. The use of criminal law, the use of which is restricted to public emergencies, against social media is surprising.
Order states that sharing offensive stuff related to old currency is affecting peace of people
The order states that offensive information was being shared on social media sites following the demonetisation move, regarding the status of arrangements made in relation to the ban. And, this was affecting the peace of public. The order cites a Facebook post which disturbed religious sentiments and spread turmoil. But, no further details, regarding the contents of this post which caused unrest were given.
The order makes a general reference to the posting, forwarding and commenting on adverse views, distorted pictures, and expression of unpleasantness or negativity, which are causing unrest and have the potential to upset public order.