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Indore district magistrate criminalizes sharing ‘misinformation’ on social media

21 Jun 2013
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After the Rs 1000, and Rs 500 note ban, there is a new ban in place. The district magistrate of Indore has passed a new order, according to which, it is a criminal offence to share ‘misinformation’ regarding demonetization on social media channels.

“Because of the events in the past few days, it is clear that Facebook posts and comment/likes on them, messages on WhatsApp, which are unfavourable, have hurt the sentiments of general public. Forwarding such messages on Twitter etc, has a proximate and direct nexus with the disruption of public order. Such conduct in future can disturb public order and give rise to a reaction that can incite an individual to commit a crime,” said P Narhari, district magistrate Indore, in his order dated November 14.

The order announces an application of Section 144 provision of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPc) for an offence of the same. It is quite a serious clause considering, its’ applied in law and order-like situations. The district magistrate does clarify, that this order does not bar people from discussing or talking about demonetization, but has just been placed to prevent rumor mongering. “There have been riot-like situations because of social media forwards. These measures are to stop people from forwarding factually incorrect messages,” he told Economic Times .

When asked if the order was triggered by a particular incident, he pointed out to a message that was forwarded on WhatsApp about the government issuing Rs 100 and Rs 1,000 coins, which led to a huge rush at banks. He also said that his office was keeping track of such posts and those who were sharing them.

However, in response to the order passed, the advocates of internet freedom were left unhappy. According to a report by India Live Today , on November 23, the Internet Freedom Foundation, a group of volunteers who advocate for a free and open internet, sent a legal notice to the Indore district magistrate over his order banning criticism of the currency demonetization on social media channels, in the Indore jurisdiction.

Criticizing the ban, the Internet Freedom Foundation told the publication, “The district collectors order is an overreach of the Criminal Procedure Code, and we are very concerned about the implications it has on Indians fundamental rights and freedom of expression. We also pointed out that the use of the CrPC is an unwarranted response to rumour-mongering, and that we are concerned about the legality and the scope of the power invoked, and the impact it has on Fundamental Rights guaranteed by our Constitution. Although rumours may cause annoyance, they aren’t illegal. The CrPC is only applicable when criminal intent is evident.”

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