Apparently ‘Freedom of Speech’ is just a concept now and is no longer in existence in India. A 19-year-old blogger’s case could forever change the ground rules of blogging. Bloggers may no longer express their uninhibited views on everything under the sun, for the Supreme Court said they may face libel and even prosecution for the blog content.
It will no longer be safe to start a blog and invite others to register their raunchy, caustic and even abusive comments on an issue while seeking protection behind the disclaimer – views expressed on the blog are that of the writers.
This chilling warning emerged as a Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice P Sathasivam refused to protect a 19-year-old Kerala boy, who had started a community on Orkut against Shiv Sena, from protection against summons received from a Maharashtra court on a criminal case filed against him.
Petitioner Ajith D had started a community on Orkut against Shiv Sena. In this community, there were several posts and discussions by anonymous persons who alleged that Shiv Sena was trying to divide the country on region and caste basis.
Reacting to these posts, the Shiv Sena youth wing’s state secretary registered a criminal complaint at Thane police station in August 2008 based on which FIR was registered against Ajith under Sections 506 and 295A pertaining to hurting public sentiment.
After getting anticipatory bail from Kerala HC, Ajith moved the Supreme Court through counsel Jogy Scaria seeking quashing of the criminal complaint on the ground that the blog contents were restricted to communication within the community and did not have defamation value. He also pleaded that there was threat to his life if he appeared in a Maharashtra court.
A computer science student, Ajith pleaded that the comments made on the blog were mere exercise of their fundamental right to freedom of expression and speech and could not be treated as an offence by police.
Unimpressed, the Bench said, “We cannot quash criminal proceedings. You are a computer student and you know how many people access internet portals. Hence, if someone files a criminal action on the basis of the content, then you will have to face the case. You have to go before the court and explain your conduct.”
Is there a way to file a PIL again in Supreme Court to a different panel?