South Mumbai MLA Mangal Prabhat Lodha
MUMBAI: South Mumbai MLA Mangal Prabhat Lodha on Tuesday filed a petition before the Bombay high court to challenge the constitutional validity of a May 23 order issued by Mumbai police that stipulates criminal action against administrators of social media group chats for spreading “incorrect, distorted information” or “inciting mistrust towards government”.
“The police order is so vague there are no guidelines for authorities on its implementation and is creating panic and an unjustified and harsh gagging effect on freedom of speech,” says the petition.
“It is arbitrary, an insidious form of censorship and will have a chilling effect on freedom of speech,” says the petitioner in the petition filed through advocate Hitesh Jain of Parinam Law.
“The order suffers from vagueness,” said the petition “because none of the restrictions imposed…can be defined. As a result, innocent people can also be roped into criminal cases in a whimsical application.”
Lodha, who is also the president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Mumbai, claims that the police dictat is against equality and right to life.
“To punish somebody who has a contrary view or is critical of the government or authorities on the grounds that it amounts to ‘inciting mistrust against the government’ is clearly arbitrary and in “stark violation of Article 19(1) (a) (freedom of speech), Article 14 (equality) and Article 21 (right to life) of the Indian Constitution,” the petition adds.
“Public criticism is essential to working of government institutions, and a ‘culture of open dialogue’ essential for democracy,”’ says the petitioner seeking an urgent hearing.