Tweets Linking Tablighi Jamaat To Covid-19: Why Can’t A Criminal Case Be Filed Against Twitter, Asks Telangana High Court

by M R Subramani - Jun 24, 2020 08:42 AM
Tweets Linking Tablighi Jamaat To Covid-19:  Why Can’t A Criminal Case Be Filed Against Twitter, Asks Telangana High CourtWhy not take action against Twitter?
Snapshot
  • Court allows petition seeking action against those posting objectionable content on Twitter and other social media platforms linking religion to Covid-19.

The Telangana High Court has wondered why a criminal case cannot be filed against Twitter for permitting tweets that linked Islam to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

A two-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice B Vijaysen Reddy made this observation while admitting a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking a direction to Twitter and the Union and state governments to delete social media posts that draw such links.

Admitting the petition, the High Court issued notices to Twitter and both governments to file their response in four weeks.

Moving the court, lawyer Khaja Aijazuddin complained that some individuals had posted objectionable content, especially on Twitter, connecting religion to coronavirus.

He argued that Twitter provided a platform to hatemongers to spread fear against Islam during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Contending that such "Islamophobic" posts disturbed communal harmony, the advocate wanted all such objectionable contents trending with the hashtags #Islamiccoronavirusjihad, #Coronajihad, #Tablighijamat, #Nizamuddidnin and #TablighiJamatVirus for the last few months removed.

The lawyer pleaded that the Union and state governments to ensure along with Twitter and other online and social media platforms that any content connecting religion with coronavirus pandemic should not be circulated.

He also sought filing of criminal cases against all those posting such content.

Aijazuddin moved the Telangana High Court after the Supreme Court gave him the liberty to file the petition in the lower court after refusing to entertain his petition on 30 April.

Then, an apex court bench consisting of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justice Aniruddha Bose, taking up the lawyer’s plea through video conferencing, said the court “cannot stop any person from saying some wrong things on the phone or social media”.

Aijazuddin then contended that he was not seeking a direction to stop anything but was praying for the direction to Twitter to drop objectionable hashtags as they can be "inflammatory" in nature.

He argued that linking religion to the pandemic disease was against the guidelines issued by the World Health Organization on 18 March this year.

The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to entertain a PIL seeking a direction to the Centre and the Telangana police chief to restrain social networking site Twitter from allowing trending ''communal'' hashtag linking Islam to spread of novel coronavirus in India.

However, the lawyer prayed for withdrawing his petition seeking liberty to move the Telangana High Court, which the Supreme Court permitted.

Aijazuddin’s petition is in connection with the Tablighi Jamaat being held responsible for the spread of coronavirus, especially due to the Aalami Markaz Nizamuddin congregations held in Delhi during March.

The congregations became a coronavirus vector with Delhi still suffering from its impact. The congregations are also blamed for the pandemic spread in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.

Besides that, Tablighi Jamaat preachers who came from abroad to visit states such as Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana and Bihar were also found to be infected with pandemic which spread to others.

Initially, Union and state governments, especially Tamil Nadu, made references to the congregations as “single source” before dropping it.

So far, 4.56 lakh persons in the country have tested positive for coronavirus with 14,476 deaths being reported.

M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani

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