Gag order no more operational: Maha govt tells Bombay HC

The administrators of various social media groups need not worry now as the controversial prohibitory order issued by the Mumbai Police, threatening action against them for dissemination of any fake news or false information regarding Covid-19 pandemic, no longer holds the ground. This could be said so as the Maharashtra government on Friday informed the Bombay High Court that the order isn't operational, as on date.

A bench of Justices Amjad Sayed and Makarand Karnik was informed that the order passed by Mumbai Police on May 23 was operational only till June 8.

"The order in question, which was issued by the deputy commissioner of police (Operations) of Mumbai Police under section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) had been in effect only till June 8. We haven't extended it after June 8 and there is no prohibitory order in place, as on date," advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni told the judges.

"However, the authorities would act against any illegal activity as and when it comes across one," the AG added.

Notably, the order dubbed as a "gag order" received flak as it provided for stern action against persons, who spread incorrect or fake information on social media regarding the pandemic.

The order precisely provided action against the administrators of various social media groups, for any fake or false messages circulated on his or her group by a member.

The bench led by Justice Sayed accepted the statement made by Kumbhakoni and accordingly disposed of the PIL saying that nothing survives in the plea for further consideration.

The PIL argued that the order violated the fundamental rights of citizens to free speech and expression. It argued that the police order aims to muzzle the voice of common citizens and prevent them from criticising the government's handling of the pandemic.

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