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Stopping freedom of expression on social media is wrong: Attorney General KK Venugopal | India News

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NEW DELHI: India’s top legal official, KK Venugopal, fought for freedom of expression on social media on Sunday, saying that any measure to curb it would be very bad for democracy and that if anyone misused freedom, governments and the courts had the option of resorting to contempt proceedings.
When asked about some states that have attempted to curb freedom of expression on social media by proceeding against individuals using the provisions of the Information Technology Act or the Indian Penal Code, Attorney General Venugopal he told TOI: “Stopping freedom of expression on social media will be very wrong for democracy. Citizens, whether on social media or otherwise, must have the essential freedom to express their opinions about the functioning of institutions in a democracy.

Stopping freedom of expression on social media is wrong: Attorney General KK Venugopal |  India News

“I will be the last person to say that social media should be regulated in a democracy. On the other hand, I believe that social media is essential for democracy. The authorities get to know the opinions of the general public. If someone misuses freedom, then the government can act in accordance with the provisions of the law and constitutional courts can resort to contempt proceedings. But if freedom of expression is restricted, it will be a disservice to democracy. ”
A few people who cross the line shouldn’t be a reason to curb freedom of expression on social media, he said. Venugopal has recently repeatedly refused consent to contempt proceedings against activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan, but has accepted the filing of a contempt petition against some comedians for their allegedly disparaging remarks against the Supreme Court.
“I walk the tightrope and give my consent only in extreme cases where there is a deliberate attempt to denigrate the CS or its judges with derogatory charges. This is a new phenomenon on social media: daring and trying to invite contempt proceedings through such posts. They are challenging the SC to act. If the SC initiates a contempt action against you based on the consent given by me in some cases, it could send a cautionary message to everyone not to abuse the right to freedom of expression on social media platforms, ”he said Venugopal.
The Attorney General’s statement acquires relevance at a time when social networks are plagued with publications that, according to him, “are an attempt to challenge the Supreme Court to initiate a process for contempt” against the authors. Lately, it has been inundated with requests for consent to petition the SC for the initiation of contempt proceedings. Under section 15 of the Contempt of Court Act 1971, filing a petition for contempt of a person requires the prior consent of the attorney general or attorney general.
Since many social media posts appear to ignore reasonable restrictions on freedom of expression imposed under article 19 (2) of the Constitution, there has been an increase in requests to seek the consent of the attorney general to file contempt petitions. . “I am fed up with the number of requests that seek my consent to initiate contempt for alleged derogatory posts on social media. There are two types of publications, one that is severely critical and the other is scandalously abusive, ”Venugopal said, but he had no doubts about the essentiality of freedom of expression for democracy.
“I have given my consent to file contempt petitions against those who have used extremely intemperate language and posted disgusting cartoons. In most cases I have refused consent, because I believe that freedom of expression is essential in a democracy. Even where posts border on being labeled derogatory, I have refused consent, ”he said.
When asked if legislative restrictions were necessary to improve speech on social media platforms, the attorney general said he was not in favor of anything that would restrict freedom of expression in any medium. “Social networks are a very essential outlet for ordinary people and the intelligentsia to express their views honestly in a democracy. They have the right to express their dissatisfaction with the functioning of the government or the judiciary. This freedom is fundamental for the functioning of democracy ”, he added.

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