Sharing Manipulated Photos On Social Media Not An Offence Under Section 120(o) Of Kerala Police Act: Kerala High Court
The Kerala High Court, recently, in a Criminal Miscellaneous case, made an observation regarding the absence of appropriate punishment for posting defamatory statements and posters on Facebook and held that the act of sharing manipulated photos on social media platforms such as Facebook would not constitute an offence under Section 120(o) of the Kerala Police Act.
The Single Judge Bench of Justice P.V. Kunhikrishnan was dealing with a case where a priest sought the quashing of a criminal case under Section 482 of the CrPC for offences punishable under Section 120(o) of the Kerala Police Act. The criminal complaint alleged that on August 8, 2017, approximately 35 priests from the Malankara Orthodox Church conducted a Hunger Strike in front of the Head of the Orthodox Church in Kottayam. During this protest, they displayed a banner. However, with the intention to insult, the Petitioner replaced this banner and defamed him before his fellow priests and the general public by posting a manipulated photo of the altered banner on Facebook.
Advocate Abraham Samson along with Advocate Lovely Samson appeared for the Petitioner while Advocate K. Rakesh appeared for the Respondents.
The Petitioner before the Court submitted that the offence under Section 120(o) of the Kerala Police Act is not attracted, even if the entire allegations in the final report are accepted.
Considering the submissions, the Court noted that a person causing nuisance of himself to any other person through any means of communication is the essential ingredient of an offence punishable under Section 120(o) of the Kerala Police Act, 2011 while the main allegation in the complaint is that a photo was posted on Facebook with a wrong banner manipulated by the accused.
The Court further relying on an earlier judgment held, "Offence under Section 120(o) is not attracted in the facts and circumstances of the case. Section 120(o) lays down the penalty for causing nuisance and violation of public order, where any person causing through any means of communication, a nuisance of himself to any person by repeated or undesirable or anonymous call, letter, writing, message, e-mail or through a messenger. If this Court started to hold that all these Facebook posts amount to an offence under Section 120(o) of the Kerala Police Act, 2011, almost all posts made on Facebook is to be declared as an offence under Section 120(o) of the Kerala Police Act."
Additionally noting that defamatory posts continue to do the rounds on Facebook and other Social Media platforms, the Court observed, "There is no proper punishment for such defamatory statements and posters on Facebook. The legislature must look into this aspect seriously, especially in the backdrop of this new era of technology and Social Media mania in existence in our society".
Accordingly, the Court allowed the Criminal Miscellaneous case and quashed the criminal complaint.
Cause Title: Fr Geevargese John @ Subin John v. The State Of Kerala & Anr. [CRL.MC NO. 1242 OF 2018]