The Supreme Court on Monday adjourned to next week a plea filed against communal ‘hashtags’ and Islamophobic content trending on Twitter and other social media platforms.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana has given a week’s time to the petitioner to peruse the new IT Rules, 2021 (Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) 2021).
The plea was filed in wake of the hashtags trending on Twitter which communalised the COVID spread in the light of the Tablighi Jamaat meeting held in Delhi’s Nizamuddin Markaz in March 2020.
When the matter was taken, the CJI asked Advocate Khaja Aijazuddin, who appeared as petitioner-in-person ” Already people are forgetting these issues. You want to rake them up again?”.
The CJI further asked the petitioner if he has examined the new IT Rules.
“The recent IT Rules 2021 takes care of this”, the CJI said.
The petitioner replied that the IT Rules did not address the issue of communal propaganda in social media.
“Please show us the latest rules and show us it is not there. Do your homework”, the CJI said.
Furthermore, it was stated by the CJI that another plea had been filed by Jamait Ulama-i-Hind on similar issues, and it would be prudent for the Petitioner to file an Intervention Application in that plea.
However, Aijazuddin submitted to the Court that the issues raised in his petition were different and required separate consideration.
The bench expressed inclination to not entertain the plea and asked if he has filed any representation before the Union of India.
Ultimately, the matter was adjourned to next week, with the bench asking the petitioner to study the new IT Rules.
The petitioner had earlier moved the Telangana High Court, which refused to entertain his matter asking him to approach the Supreme Court which was considering a similar petition.
Petitioner-advocate Khaja Aijazuddin has averred that these trends, styled as #Islamiccoronavirusjihad, #Coronajihad, #Nizamuddinidiots, #TablighiJamatVirus, etc,
are “attaching the religion to the pandemic disease which is contrary to the Guidelines or advisory Dated 18.03.2020 issued by the World Health Organization”. Besides, “it is contrary to the laws prevailing in the territorial Jurisdiction of India, calling for invocation of Penal Laws for manifestly insulting the religion, hurting the feelings of the community and disturbing the communal harmony of the Country”.
The Petitioner has prayed for a direction to the Centre and to the Telangana police to require the social media platform Twitter to “stop the illegal trending attaching the religion to the pandemic disease”, for it is “highly unwarranted,, illegal and unconstitutional”. Further, it is sought that “online social media networks or sites be restrained from carrying any messages hurting or insulting the feelings of the particular community”.
A plea seeking action against certain sections of the media for communalising the meeting at Nizamuddin has already been filed before the Apex Court by another organisation of Islamic scholars – Jamait Ulama-i-hind, and Supreme Court has directed to implead Press Council Of India in the matter.