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Posted at: Oct 6, 2017, 1:34 AM; last updated: Oct 6, 2017, 1:34 AM (IST)

Offensive language on social media worries SC

Satya Prakash

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 5

Two-and-a-half years after declaring Section 66A of the Information Technology Act unconstitutional, the Supreme Court today expressed concern over the language, tone and tenor of comments made on individuals and issues, including those on judges, on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook and underlined the need to regulate them.

A three-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said social media platforms were being misused and many people were disseminating wrong information even about the court proceedings.

“Earlier the right to privacy could have been infringed by the state only. Now, such things emanate from private parties also,” it said.

The Bench’s remark came after senior lawyers Fali Nariman and Harish Salve raised questions over offensive language used in the social media.

In fact, the Bench was dealing with the issue of public functionaries making irresponsible statements on pending criminal investigations and if right to free speech would cover even statements that might influence the outcome of the probe.

Justice Dhananjay Chandrachud said: “I was shocked to see the kind of comments made against Nariman. People feel free to say anything. How can that be? After all, he is an officer of this court and a senior lawyer of stature.”

“I have stopped looking at them,” Nariman said. Unwarranted comments about almost everything could be found on these platforms, he added.

“I have deleted my Twitter account. It was so abusive,” said Salve. He recalled how he was trolled after he appeared in a case relating to Christian medical college forcing him to delete his Twitter handle.

“Anything that disrupts free exchange of views between the judges and the arguing lawyers needs to be curbed,” Salve said.

During the hearing, CJI Misra recalled how he upheld the constitutional validity of criminal defamation. “Everyone is abusing everyone else and it looks okay at some time. But it pinches when you are attacked. Now Salve says he has closed his Twitter account and Nariman feels happy he doesn’t have one. Right to reputation is a facet of Article 21 (life and liberty) and that’s what I said in our judgment,” Justice Misra said.

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