Freedom of Expression doesn't give unfettered licence to speak anything; comes with responsibilities: Allahabad High Court

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The court said that the freedom of expression does not grant unfettered licence to citizens for every possible use of language; they don't have a right to speak without responsibility.  

The Allahabad High Court recently made remarks on the issue of misuse of social media in the garb of freedom of expression.

Court said, "it is beyond the shadow of a doubt that social media is a global platform for exchange of thoughts, opinions and ideas. The internet and social media have become important tools through which individuals can exercise their right to freedom of expression but the right to freedom of expression comes with its own set of special responsibilities and duties".

The single judge bench of Justice Shekhar Kumar Yadav clarified that the freedom of expression does not confer upon the citizens the right to speak without responsibility nor does it grant unfettered licence for every possible use of language.

The court observed thus while dealing with a plea moved by a woman who had been booked under Section 67 of the Information Technology Act. The woman sought direction to quash the cognizance order passed by Judicial Magistrate as well as charge sheet in the case.

The FIR in the case was filed in May last year against the woman and unknown persons alleging that some unknown persons with different mobile numbers and IDs obtained photo of the informant from social media and while tempering with the photo as well as while using abusive words, got them viral on the internet. For which, the informant had also given an application before cyber thana.

However, pressing for the relief sought, the counsel for the woman submitted before the court that the woman had been falsely implicated in the case. The informant in the case had filed the FIR maliciously just to pressurize and harass the woman. 

He submitted that the accused woman and the son of an opposite party in the case were colleagues, and when the accused woman rejected the son's proposal, he started to send vulgar messages to her on social media platforms. 

Thereafter, the accused woman filed a case under Sections 354-ka, 354 gha, 506 IPC against the son of the opposite party in which charge sheet had also been submitted. 

The counsel asserted that the present FIR was just a counterblast to the FIR lodged by the accused woman. 

He also contended that after investigation, the investigating officer had submitted charge sheet against the applicant under Section 67 of Information Technology (Amendment) Act in illegal and arbitrary manner as the Magistrate took cognizance on a printed proforma without application of judicial mind.

Considering the rival submissions advanced by both parties, court held that the investigating officer had submitted charge sheet after collecting cogent and reliable evidence against the accused woman and only thereafter the Magistrate had summoned the woman. 

Court also noted there were witnesses whose statements had established clear-cut allegations against the accused woman and also they had fully supported the prosecution story.

Therefore, court opined that no ground for quashing the proceedings of aforesaid case was made out which might call for any interference. Accordingly, court dismissed the accused woman's plea. 

Case Title: Nandini Sachan v State of U.P. and Another