BJP MLA Mangal Prabhat Lodha has filed a petition in the Bombay High Court against the 23 May prohibitory orders issued by the Mumbai Police. Lodha has questioned the constitutional validity of the order.
The Mumbai police commissioner had on May 23rd, 2020 issued prohibitory orders under section 144 of the CrPC, prohibiting any kind of ‘online hate’ on various social media platforms like WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, etc. The order is valid through 00.15 hours on 25th May 2020 and ending at 24 hours on 8th June 2020.
The petition filed by Lodha states that the order is so vague that there are no guidelines for the authorities for its implementation and it is creating panic and ‘unjustified and harsh gagging effect on freedom of speech’.
As per a report in The Livemint, Lodha, who is the President of BJP’s Mumbai unit, has stated, “We do not agree with this order. It is absolutely wrong. It is exactly like the Emergency period.” The petition is due to be heard in the HC in two days.
It is notable here that citing the total failure of law and order and administration in the state and the dire situation due to the coronavirus pandemic, the BJP has been demanding President’s rule to be imposed.
Order directed to curb criticism against state government
Essentially, the order also indirectly bans all criticism of the Maharashtra government led by Uddhhav Thackeray as one of the clauses in the prohibitory order says that messages that incite “mistrust towards government functionaries and their actions taken to control Covid-19” will also be acted against.
The order issued by Deputy Commissioner of Police (Operations) Pranaya Ashok reads that the Mumbai police will hold the group admin of the social media and messaging platforms personally responsible for any such information being disseminated from a group administered by them and he or she would attract action under the relevant laws.
The controversial order also stated that any person contravening it shall be punishable under section 188 of the Indian Penal Code.
Aaditya Thackeray’s biggest worry: Hate on social media
In a recent interview with NDTV, Shiv Sena MLA and CM Uddhav Thackeray’ son Aaditya had stated that the most worrying aspect of the pandemic in Maharashtra is the ‘hate’ allegedly perpetrated on social media.
Earlier, in a classic ‘Heads I win, Tails you lose’ situation, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had stated that the lockdown was needed in Maharashtra because it had spiralled out of control. At the same time, he mouthed mandatory criticism to play petty politics in complete contradiction to his previous statement.
Coronavirus situation in Maharashtra
The pandemic situation in Maharashtra has been worsening day by day. It is the worst affected Indian state and has more than 54,000 confirmed cases so far, contributing to almost one third of all cases in India. It has registered more than 1700 deaths.
More than 1000 police officials have been affected by the coronavirus so far in Maharashtra. The state government had requested central forces to control the situation and maintain law and order in several localities. There have been reports of mismanagement in state-run hospitals where corpses of coronavirus patients can been seen lying unattended among live individuals under treatment.