India loves to talk, from grandma club in local park to people hanging out at chai addas, we all have an opinion. And now with social media, these opinions are not limited to closed doors. From topics of nation interest to neighbourhood couple eloping, everything seems to evoke a social and political commentary, which gets amplified by an army of hum janta who are now armed with smartphones and fortified with internet connection.
This digital drama finds an antagonist in uniform, when Section 66A of the Information Technology Act allows arrest for posting ‘offensive material’ on social media. The Supreme Court defended the right to expression and the right to know by striking down this archaic clause.
Mere discussion and exchange of opinion does not lead to a law and order situation. In fact, voicing and hearing an opinion is a fundamental right. Is this not what our leaders fought for when suppressed by the colonial yoke?
The issue also calls to notice an individual’s right not to be offended. What is wine to one, may be water to another.
The verdict comes following cases of persons being arrested for their posts on social networking sites. Most recently, a Class 12 student was arrested over a Facebook post on UP leader Azam Khan.
Born amidst prayers for “Where the mind is without fear,” our society has upheld the right to have an opinion and the right to ignore an opinion.
Our legal system recognizes three forms of free speech- Discussion, advocacy and incitement. While the first two are unquestionable protected by the Constitution, incitement is still punishable.
So here’s what you need to keep in mind before posting a social commentary on social media platform:
Do not put up posts/tweets/images/status messages that may hurt religious sentiments or humiliate the weaker sections in society. Inciting posts divide the society and split opinions. Discussion of differing opinions is good for progress. But arguments for the sake of it, with no intention of resolution are harmful.
In a diverse country like India, we have to use our right or free speech with responsibility. Social media has a huge power and vast reach. Let’s try to use it for the larger good, and not mean tweets and posts.
(Image credits- giphy, frontpagemag)