By Mayank Jain:
Numerous instances of freedom of speech being curtailed in India in the name of a draconian law called the IT Act have already been seen in the UPA rule. While some had to fight cases for their critical commentary over social media, others faced jail for simply drawing a cartoon in good humour which was perceived to be a ‘threat to national integrity’.
Is it a justified step to make the populace fall in line or a gross overestimation of the power of a single individual’s opinion, we will never know.
Meet Devu Chodankar, a young shipbuilding professional from Goa and an active social media user like many of us who dared to speak up about the PM designate Narendra Modi during the great Indian elections and now finds himself slapped with multiple cases filed under sections 153(A), 295(A) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and section 125 of the People’s Representation Act and 66-A of the Information Technology Act. Some of these are non-bailable in nature.
The district and sessions court has already rejected his bail plea as the local cybercrime investigation cell found it to be a larger game plan to “promote communal and social disharmony” in the state.
In a well-known Facebook group called Goa+, Chodankar had posted during the elections that if elected to power, Modi would unleash a ‘holocaust’. This comment attracted the attention of the former chairman of Confederation of Indian Industries, Atul Pai Kane who filed an FIR against him in March this year.
“The complaint is against Devu for making inflammatory statements and trying to create communal disharmony, not comments against the BJP,” Kane had explained in his online post.
The only option in front of Chodankar is to approach the High Court with his plea now and the future for him looks uncertain as of now. The new government is assuming office and their strategy in dealing with such cases will determine a major portion of India’s future position in the Internet censorship sphere since an individual cannot be tried for his personal opinions just because he posted them on social media.
The laws in this case are draconian too which tend to prohibit the freedom and rights of an individual over social media by terming it a public platform and his comments are regarded as ‘inciting’ hatred and communal disharmony giving no regards to one’s intentions or his seriousness while posting the same.
Modi and BJP took social media by storm during the elections phase and their campaign contributed a lot to their win but the strategy that they adopt to deal with criticism and comments on social media is an incomplete sentence right now.
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