Indore District Collect P Narhari banned the posting of 'objectionable and inflammatory' posts against demonetisation on social media websites like Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter and others on November 14, 2014. He issued the notice to all the state government authorities so that they can keep track of those committing this 'criminal offence.'

 

The District Collector is trying to say that 'criminal' procedures will be taken against those who posting on social media against the currency ban. How can a District Collector impose a ban on posts about the currency crisis in social media websites is the first question. Secondly, how is expressing one's own views on social media be referred to as a 'criminal' offence'? 

 

Before proceeding further with this issue, let us take a look at the notice that he issued. This is what Narhari had to say in his order that he issued: 

 

"Office of District Magistrate, District Indore (M.P.) 
Order/2956/RADM/2016          
Indore
Date: 14/11/2016

 

Therefore I, P. Narhari, District Magistrate, District Indore under Section 144 of The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 in the interest of the general public and to maintain public order, in Indore district’s entire state border area the following order is given:


In Indore district’s entire state border area, making any social media posts or sharing them without any legal basis relating to the exchanging of old currency or anything relating to the same in the form of an objectionable or offensive photo/picture, on messaging and forwarding it on Twitter, Whatsapp, Facebook or any other social media, an activity of commenting on such posts is being restricted."

 

Demonetisation has had a variety of effects on Indians in the last couple of weeks. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has even run a survey on his app to know exactly what people felt about the decision. Many are happy while many are talking against it and expressing their views on social media.

 

Since we are residing in a democratic country and the Indian Constitution empowers us with ‘Freedom of Speech,’ we can write or say what we feel in public or in any social media platforms - as long as it is not fabrications or illegal.

 

The District Collector from Indore seems to have gone a little too far with his perceptions, insisting on a ban on 'objectionable and inflammatory' posts against demonetisation on social media websites. But there is little proof as to what he considers 'illegal' posts. 

 

There is a very valid problem with this ban. Social media platforms are THE big thing currently as we can pen down our thoughts wherever and whenever we want to. But the collector has taken moral policing to a whole new level.

 

While some may like the decision to ban the ₹500 and ₹1000 notes, others may differ with it vehemently. Either of them can express their anguish or joy on social media as and when they want to.

 

How can one have a problem with that as that is not remotely going to affect the decision which has already been implemented? It seems unconstitutional to prevent citizens from freely expressing their thoughts about a government decision that affects them all.

 

Such a decision cannot affect the social situation or cause communal disharmony – the two main reasons why such bans are usually implemented.

 

Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), which has a similar point of view, has sent a legal notice to the Indore District Collector asking him to withdraw his ban. The collector has not reacted to the call so far.