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Written by: Ashi Chouksey (Intern)
Edited by: Anubhav Yadav (Content Head & Developer)

The Punjab & Haryana High Court on Wednesday, 28th April commended the role of social media in reaching out to the citizens who are in sore need of help.

The single judge bench of Justice Arvind Singh Sangwan, although, add on that a micro percentage of media may not be that responsible and playing a positive role in nation building and instead of holding back to promote hate speeches and coverage, it articulates sensational news.

MATTER BEFORE THE COURT IN AMIT GHAI VS STATE OF PUNJAB

The court was hearing an appeal of Amit Ghai seeking anticipatory bail in an FIR under section 120-B, 124-A, 149, 153-A, 153-B, 295-A, 298 and 505 of the IPC.

As per the claims in the FIR, registered at instance of inspector Daljit Singh, it was asserted that he had seen a video clip, which went viral on social media. The petitioner and the other people had participated in a conference, where certain derogatory remarks were made regarding Nihang Sikhs that they are roaming with long swords and are giving a bad name to the attire of the Nihang community.

According to the plaintiff, this video amounted to hate speech, which was put together to create communal disharmony, which may lead to communal riots by insulting a particular section of the society. It had posed a threat to the unity and integrity of the country.

The counsel for the petitioners stated that the video was uploaded on social media, i.e., YouTube and Facebook by the Chief Editor of Punjab Kesari TV, also, the video was edited in a manner that gave a one-sided version.

It was further argued that the conversation between the petitioner and the said reporter was not intended to hurt the religious sentiments of any community. The press reporter by editing the speech of the petitioner had been giving a wrong message to make sensational news by adding his own content.

COURT’S OBSERVATIONS

At the beginning, the court remarked that it was a universally accepted fact that Press (including print and electronic media) has become the fourth pillar of democracy, which could change the mindset of the citizens regarding hate crimes in society.

The court said that, “Even in the present Covid-19 pandemic situation, this fourth pillar has done unexceptionally commendable job in extending help to, government as well as needycitizens“.

Not only this, even social media is doing a great job and reaching out to the citizens who are in urgent need of help and all the citizen, whether known or unknown, are extending help to each other.

Nevertheless, the court further observed that the micro percentage of media may not be that responsible in playing a positive role in nation building and instead of restraining to promote hate speeches, coverages, it airs sensational news.

The court quoted that, “The followers of the school of thought believe that they are above law and will go uncondemned from the process of law“.

Lastly, the court by posting the matter for the hearing on March 25, granted anticipatory bail to the petitioner and directed the state to continue its investigation.

For the time being, Director/Additional Director Bureau of the Investigation, Punjab has been directed to look into the investigation, as well as the role of the person who had uploaded the video clip on social media. And were asked to file a specific affidavit on the following points:

Whether a press reporter, being a citizen, on coming to know that an offence is committed, is bound to inform the police before airing such information.
Whether aforesaid press reporter himself was an instrument in the perpetuation of the crime as uploading a video clip on social media or electronic media may amount to promoting disharmony or feeling of hatred etc.
Whether the original video recording as such can be termed as hate speech.
Whether the edited video clip, with his comments as a catalyst, amounted to hate speech. Let the affidavit be filed on or before the next date of hearing.
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