SC denies plea against communal hashtags

Supreme Court refuses to entertain plea against 'communal' hashtags trending on Twitter

The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to entertain a PIL seeking a direction to the Centre and the Telangana police chief to restrain social networking site 'Twitter' from allowing trending 'communal' hashtags linking Islam to spread of novel coronavirus in India.

A Hyderabad-based lawyer had sought a direction to the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Telangana's Director General Of Police and the Commissioner Of Police to ask Twitter Inc "to stop illegal trending such as "#Islamiccoronavirusjihad, Jamat, #Coronajihad, #Nizamuddinidiots, #TablighiJamatVirus" as they attach religion to the pandemic.

A bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justice Aniruddha Bose, hearing the plea through video conferencing, took note of the submissions of lawyer Khaja Aijazuddin and said that he should seek remedies before the Telangana High Court.

"The petitioner prays for withdrawal of this petition with liberty to approach the Telangana High Court. Prayer is allowed. Accordingly, the writ petition is dismissed as withdrawn with the liberty aforesaid," the apex court said in its order.

During a brief hearing, the bench had said that the court cannot stop any persons from saying some wrong things on the phone or social media.

The lawyer said that he was not seeking a direction to stop anything but was praying for the direction to Twitter to drop hashtags as they can be "inflammatory" in nature.

The petition said trending hashtags "attaching the religion to pandemic disease which is done by social network users on Twitter was contrary to the Guidelines or advisory dated March 18, issued by the World Health Organization".

It was also contrary to penal laws prevailing in India for want of manifestly insulting the religion by hurting the feelings of the followers, the plea said.

A religious congregation was conducted from March 13-15 in Delhi and it was organized by Tablighi Jamat at Nizamuddin. Reports suggest that the attendees went to various parts of the country and some of them were found to be infected and played parts in the spread of COVID-19. 

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