Express Yourself, Face Prosecution? Bloggers Speak

by Neeti Thakker    Feb 25, 2009

I say this because a criminal case has been filed against a Kerala-based 19-year-old IT student for starting a community on Orkut against a political party. "You should not have indulged in such activity. You are a student of IT. You are doing something on Internet and you should know about it," the Supreme Court Bench said, refusing his lawyer’s plea.

Members of the blogging community have a lot to say about this. Some of them are for such a verdict while the others are totally against it.

A recent blog entry on DesiPundit.com by Patrix says, "We are seeking suggestions to address these concerns, especially from a legal perspective. Moving beyond rants against the SC ruling, we would appreciate it if you could offer any suggestions to tackle efforts at controlling our blogging rights. This ruling not only affects bloggers but all netizens who comment on forums and Facebook/Orkut communities."

Popular blogger Praveen Dalal, who is by profession an advocate practicing in the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court, on his blog post says, "It is not the blogging that is bad or illegal per se, but the ‘Illegal Contents’ that it generates. With constitutional protection on the side of bloggers, there must be very strong reasons to book a person for defamation or disturbing religious harmony. The Government of India can make things better by formulating a good cyber law that clearly demarcates between legal and illegal opinion sharing."

Annie Zaidi, journalist and owner of the blog Known Turf, reveals another side of the issue. She says, "I blog about various subjects, but I do not often call people or parties names, and usually exercise restraint even when I am very angry, which is what I would do even in print, or on television. The ‘blogging culture’ needs to grow up and recognize that the laws of the land apply to them as well. If they want to campaign against the laws of the land, that is a separate issue."

Zaidi also points out that bloggers or moderators of web forums should not be held responsible for libel if the said material is in the form of a comment. "Responsibility needs to be placed where it is due," she adds.

Writer, photographer, and blogger Ajay Jain said, "Blogging is a form of media just like any other: newspapers, internet, radio, and television. The laws and rules of conduct that apply to the latter should apply likewise to blogging. Bloggers and other citizen journalists should realize that power and freedom does not come without responsibility. Blogs and social media are public platforms like any other, and what they say on these affects society and the nation. Just like journalists do, all information and opinion should be based on verified facts and not hearsay, with full attribution being given to sources."

Jain is an active blogger who talks about a diverse range of topics on his blog ranging from Politics to Travel and Social Issues to Technology.

Jain also says, "We must appreciate that blogging gives the power and freedom to citizens to exercise their opinion, and it should not be curtailed in any form. However, what may be a matter of concern is the ability to beat down bloggers because they are individuals without any support system. Political parties, courts, and other legal authorities may find it easy to intimidate them through force and the threat of legal action. As a society, we should not allow this to happen."
Poonam in her blog Visceral Observations questions the grounds on which SC has made this decision. She also goes ahead to state the "reasonable restrictions" stated in Clause (2) of Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. These reasonable restrictions are:

    * Security of the State
    * Friendly relations with foreign States
    * Public order
    * Decency and morality
    * Contempt of court
    * Defamation
    * Incitement to an offence
    * Sovereignty and integrity of India

She says that it is not clear to her which clause this particular act falls into.

Another post on Mutiny.in says, "Blogs have always been about opinion, and in terms of reportage, blogs are now quickly gaining more readership and attention. With increased exposure to the aam internet-savvy junta, I do believe that bloggers must also show some restraint with criticism and inject it with more constructiveness. Mere rants serve little purpose except for satisfying one’s itch and/or ego to make themselves heard, and when this tends to hurt public sentiment, the law is forced to step in. If the court says it will take action against bloggers who go online and make hate-posts against a particular individual, and if this hurts public sentiment, then I am with the court."

We have a lot of diverse views and opinions from the members of the blogging community. However, according to SC’s verdict it is not just about blogging, but is related to anything being published on the internet, and if someone files a criminal case on the basis of the content, then you are subject to prosecution.

We want to know what you guys feel about this. Are you for or against this verdict, or do you have an opinion to give. Let us know your thoughts.

 

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