The Supreme Court on Friday upheld an order to a Congress leader to refrain from using social media till a criminal trial against him was concluded, News18 reported. A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde said social media can be used by a person just like a gun.
The Supreme Court issued notice to the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government on a petition by Congress leader Sachin Choudhary, challenging the conditions imposed on him for grant of bail, Bar and Bench reported. Choudhary, who faces criminal charges for holding a press conference in violation of lockdown regulations, was ordered by the Allahabad High Court not to use social media till his trial ends.
“What is wrong with an order asking you not to use social media?” Bobde asked Choudhary. “If a court can order an accused to stay away from a gun, it can similarly ask you to stay away from social media.”
At the press conference, Choudhary had targeted the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government for allegedly mishandling the coronavirus pandemic. The politician from Amroha also used social media to target Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Adityanath.
The Amroha Police arrested Choudhary on April 11. On May 20, the Allahabad High Court granted bail to Choudhary, but ordered him to refrain from using social media till the trial concludes. When he pleaded for a modification of the order, the High Court said the Congress leader cannot use social media for 18 months or till his trial ends, whichever is earlier.
Advocate Salman Khurshid, appearing for Choudhary in the Supreme Court, contended that the High Court’s order was an infringement of freedom of speech. But the top court disagreed. “We don’t see any problem with this order,” the bench said. “If offences alleged against you are also about how you used the social media, why cannot a restraint be issued?”
The court also refused to issue an interim order allowing the Congress leader to use social media. But it said it will lay down proper guidelines for the use of social media. The court then adjourned the matter for August 28.