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Punjab and Haryana HC lauds social media in reaching out to needy in Covid-19 pandemic

A single-judge bench of Justice Arvind Singh Sangwan was hearing a petition filed by Amit Ghai seeking anticipatory bail.

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ILNS: The Punjab and Haryana High Court has lauded the role of social media in reaching out to the citizens, who are in urgent need of help.

A single-judge bench of Justice Arvind Singh Sangwan while hearing a petition filed by Amit Ghai seeking anticipatory bail, passed the following order.

“It is a universally accepted fact that Press (including Print and Electronic media) has now become the fourth pillar of democracy, which can change the mindset of the citizens regarding hate crime in the society. Even in the present Covid-19 pandemic situation, this fourth pillar has done an exceptionally commendable job in extending help to both Government, as well as needy citizens.”

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

An FIR was registered on April 2, 2021 against Nishant Sharma, President of Shiv Sena Hind; petitioner Amit Ghai, Advocate, Youth National President; Arvind Gautham, President of Punjab Wing and many other named persons under Sections 295-A, 298, 153-A, 153-B, 505, 149, 124-A and 120-B of IPC at Police Station City Kharar, District SAS Nagar.

The Counsel for the petitioner submitted that the FIR was registered at the instance of Inspector Daljit Singh, after seeing a viral video clip, which allegedly showed Nishant, Amit and Arvind convening a conference, wherein certain derogatory remarks were made regarding Nihang Sikhs that they were roaming with swords and giving a bad name to the attire of the Nihang community.

The Counsel further submitted that Nishant and Arvind have already surrendered/arrested in this case and the video clip, which was uploaded on social media by Ajit Singh Buland, Chief Editor of Punjab Kesari TV, was in fact edited in such a manner that it gave one-sided version, whereas the conversation between the petitioner and the said Reporter was not intended to hurt the religious sentiments of any community.

The Counsel reproduced the entire conversation in the petition to argue that during the conversation, the petitioner has expressed in so many words that he has faith in Sikh Religion and since childhood, he has been following the preachings of Sikh Gurus and therefore, by editing the speech of the petitioner, a wrong message has been given by the Reporter to make sensational news by adding his own contents.

Counsel for the petitioner further submitted that a bare perusal of Section 153-A and 505 of IPC would show that whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, promotes or attempts to promote, on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, is liable for prosecution. Similar provisions are there in Section 295-A and 298 of IPC.

Joginder Pal Ratra, DAG, Punjab, who also appeared through video-conferencing, accepted notice on behalf of the respondent state and submitted that petitioner and other accused have issued a press note, calling a press conference, in which the petitioner had made a speech, which was aired on social media by Ajit Singh Buland, the Court said.

“Meanwhile, in the event of arrest, the petitioner be released on interim bail subject to his furnishing personal bonds and surety to the satisfaction of arresting/Investigating Officer. However, the Petitioner shall join the investigation as and when called upon to do so and shall abide by the conditions as provided under Section 438 (2) CrPC,” the Court ordered.

In the meantime, the Director/Additional Director, Bureau of Investigation, Punjab is directed to look into the investigation as well as the role of Ajit Singh Buland, who has uploaded the video clip on social media and file a specific affidavit on the following points:

(i) 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.

(ii) whether aforesaid press reporter himself was an instrument in 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.

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(iii) whether the original video recording as such can be termed as a hate speech.

(iv) whether the edited video clip, with his comments as catalyst, amounts to hate speech.

The Court said that the affidavit be filed on or before the next date of hearing i.e on May 25, 2021.

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