The Mumbai police commissioner has on May 23rd, 2020 issued prohibitory orders under section 144 of the CrPC, valid through 00.15 hours on 25th May 2020 and ending at 24 hours on 8th June 2020, prohibiting any kind of ‘online hate’ on various social media platforms like WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, etc. 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 order bans derogatory or discriminatory messages towards any community or causing panic and confusion among the people.
The order also prohibits any attempts to incite mistrust against the government officials or their acts to prevent the spread of Coronavirus and such messages causing danger to public health or safety or public peace. Any person contravening this order shall be punishable under section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, warned the order issued by Mumbai police.
Essentially, this section makes it evident that any criticism that is shared on social media platforms including WhatsApp that criticises the Maharashtra government for their handling of the Coronavirus pandemic in the state can be held liable under relevant sections according to the order.
The order read that since this order cannot be served individually, it was issued ex-parte.
OpIndia reached out to the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Operations) to confirm if the order was authentic since at the time, the order had not been uploaded on the Mumbai Police website. Mumbai police spokesperson, DCP Pranaya Ashok confirmed that the order dated 23rd May was indeed authentic and it was a ‘regular order’ that is passed.
Mumbai police issued a similar order against ‘hate on social media’ in April
In April too, the Mumbai police had issued a similar order, prohibiting the dissemination of four types of contents on social media:
- That which is found to be incorrect or distortion of facts
- Which is derogatory or discriminatory towards any particular
- Which causes panic and confusion among the people
- Which incites mistrust against the government officials or their acts to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.
In this regard, the Mumbai police had registered 73 offences had arrested a total of 39 accused since March 22.
It is appaling how in a grim situation like this one when the total number of coronavirus cases has crossed the 50,000 mark in the state of Maharashtra, contributing to almost half of the total cases of coronavirus in the country, the state administration, instead of thinking on how to tackle the scourge has been putting all its efforts to penalise the social media detractors.
Aaditya Thackeray’s biggest concern is ‘hate on social media’
For MLA Aaditya Thackeray too, the most worrying aspect of the pandemic in Maharashtra is the ‘hate’ allegedly perpetrated on social media. In an interview with NDTV, the Shiv Sena scion had today expressed more concern about the supposed ‘online hate.’
Clueless Maharashtra Government
Earlier, in a classic ‘Heads I win, Tails you lose’ situation where Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said 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.