Law against social media posts promoting communal frenzy, violence in offing: DGP

Mir Imran/ GK

Jammu, Nov 30: Director General of Police (DGP) R R Swain Thursday stated that a law would be framed against posting content – promoting communal frenzy, disharmony and violence, on social media in J&K.
While making this announcement in a press conference convened for select-media here, he also asserted that the investigation, launched taking cognizance of uploading of offensive content by a student, would be taken to logical conclusion.

“Rest assured, action would be taken against the guilty but at the same time, attempts to use this incident for malicious purposes would also not be allowed,” he cautioned.
Reference was to the protests erupted following a NIT Srinagar student’s post on social media and subsequent remarks, hurting the religious sentiments of the majority community.
DGP Swain warned that the wheels of law would operate against malicious intent. He asserted that the powerful investigation tools would make a distinction between “freedom of speech or right to protest,
dissent” and “false statements aiming at triggering violence.”

   

“The first and foremost thing is that Jammu and Kashmir Police respect the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and the piety intrinsic to his persona a great deal and are committed not to allow any attempt to disrespect him or hurt (the sentiments), in any circumstances. There should be no doubt about it and this is our legal duty (to uphold dignity). Rest assured, one would not find us dithering on this account,” he said.
In the same breath, the top cop of J&K asserted, “Yet this is also our duty not to allow mischievous elements to exploit religious sentiments; provoke people and vitiate the peaceful atmosphere. JKP, which is the custodian of law, is fully aware of its duties (to maintain rule of law) and will fulfil them with full sense of responsibility.”

“We appeal to the people to remain vigilant against the elements trying to fish in troubled waters at the behest of those all out to vitiate the peaceful atmosphere, as a part of conspiracy. Communal amity has always been an integral part of Kashmir society, its pride. History is a testament to the fact that the acts of those, who use this pretext to serve their vested interests, don’t serve the interests of common people. I reiterate that the JKP values the dignity of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) as it (Force) values the pride and respect of this nation,” DGP said.
Cautioning people against those conspiring to vitiate peace and impair the religious harmony, he asked the people to trust JKP and support it with the unflinching faith that it would deal sternly with the (nauseating) act as per legal provisions. “By taking to streets to hold protests or resort to vandalising acts and harm the communal amity will not protect the prestige and dignity of the holy Prophet (SAW). Leave this issue to us to handle it. JKP with great alacrity have registered a case and will take it to its logical conclusion. In the meantime, you don’t allow the other (mischievous) elements to take advantage of this situation,” he cautioned.

Swain said that the safety and security of J&K youth, students, traders living in other parts of the country was an extended duty and responsibility of JKP.
“We can fulfil that duty only when we will be able to uphold the same rule of law here also in all its fairness, without any prejudice. In the wake of the condition which has erupted in Kashmir, we thought it proper to bring some facts to the fore and on behalf of police as well as (civil) administration, the common people should be enlightened and cautioned about certain things,” he said.

NEW LAW IN OFFING

DGP said that after thorough deliberations with colleagues in the police administration, they had arrived at some conclusion which needed to be shared with the people.
“We have decided to bring a law under Section 144 of CrPC where under the posting of any kind of content viz., message, video, audio which can endanger communal sensitivity or is aimed at terrorising or
threatening someone, either by the terrorist or separatist network or anti-national will be a criminal offence,” he said.

“The person, who posts such content, will be brought to justice but at the same time, (the act) to forward or share that message will also constitute a criminal offence. The person, who receives any such
objectionable post or message against his or her will, will need to report to the nearest police station to escape criminal liability under this law. But if the person is aware that the post received is sent by some terrorist, separatist or anti-national elements and has the potential to damage social harmony, like the one aimed at hurting the dignity of the holy Prophet (SAW), and still the person forwards it or the person himself or herself posts communally sensitive content- it will be a criminal offence,” he explained.

“Even on that pretext, the law will permit us to take action against that person. We will present that person before the court of law and stringent action will be taken. We will index such people to disincentivize them at every stage so as to remind them that they have committed an illegal act. This is necessary as such activities create a fear among the people; their life gets disturbed; businesses get affected; schools and colleges get closed; exams get disrupted and the whole system gets in disarray,” DGP said.

PUNISHMENT OF ACCUSED TO BE DECIDED BY LAW

Responding to a question pertaining to the threats to the accused and their security, the DGP said, “Of course, that (security) will be ensured as every citizen has a right (of protection). Now the law will
decide as to what action will be taken against him (accused). It cannot be decided outside (the purview of law). Punishment will be given within the framework of law. To take action against any such misadventure is also part of the duties of law enforcement (agency).”

DISTINCTION BETWEEN FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND FALSEHOOD

When asked if any action would be taken against the politicians who too did try to stoke violence with their statements, DGP said, “All I can say is that the wheels of law will operate in the sense that if a particular action is done deliberately with a malicious intent to further certain falsehood and that falsehood leads to loss of lives, property, further violence; attacks on individual citizens; instil fear or intimidation. Law, itself, makes it very clear that they will be held responsible.”

“I vividly remember in one of the NIA cases, the honourable judge accepted it as evidence,” he said, while referring to the calendar of Bandh calls and their analogous relation to provocative statements, triggering violence, claiming lives and damage to property; burning of shops etc.

“Freedom of speech and expression and right to protest; right of dissent are there. They are imperative in a democratic society for all. But this is the duty of public figures to weigh the truthfulness and other related nuances of their statements. Even if the statement is based on facts but it has the potential to trigger violence which may result in loss of lives, the law calls for reasonable restraint. Statements, whether those fall under freedom of expression and dissent or are linked to a conspiracy to escalate violence, will be investigated,” he stated.

He said that such statements would be investigated, the communication traced and discussions and meetings would be scrutinised to uncover any backdoor manipulation.
“The responsible or irresponsible statements, whether it is part of freedom of expression and dissent or it is part of a conspiracy or a collusion with certain elements to further increase the circle of violence, is something which will be a matter of investigation. It can be found out, the communication can be traced, discussions and meetings can be investigated, if it has happened backdoor, to forward it,” DGP warned.

“We want to make it clear between freedom of expression, right to dissent. The statements based on falsehoods and half-truths and out of context or designed to further violence will not fall in that category. We will make a distinction with the powerful tools of investigation and intelligence that we have at our command,” he said.
To a query regarding attempts by Pakistan to vitiate the atmosphere here, the DGP said that there was no doubt about it. “A number of messages are being designed from across the border and circulated on social
media adding that some people here are using these messages to disturb the peaceful atmosphere. Some people get benefitted from these activities, is a known fact,” he said and sought cooperation of the people to foil these evil conspiracies.

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