Speak against govt, face criminal charges: Mumbai Police issue gag order

The order, effective from May 25 to June 8, has under Section 144 of the CrPC, specifically directed legal action against those criticising the state and its functioning in the times of COVID-19

gag order, Maharashtra, Section 144, CrPC, COVID-19, coronavirus, Lockdown
The official said the deceased was a resident of Dharavi-Koliwada, one of the containment zones in Mumbai. Photo: PTI

In an order issued on May 23, the Mumbai Police Commissionerate put regulations on social media usage, further calling for a complete gag on anyone speaking against the state government.

“It has been observed that there is widespread dissemination of fake news, incorrect information, misinformation and other such objectionable content in the form of messages, videos (both edited and self-created), images or memes (both edited and self-created), audio clips and other such forms of communication over internet messaging and social media platforms like WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, Instagram etc,” the order read.

“Such type of content has been found to have caused panic, confusion amongst the general public, inciting mistrust towards government functionaries and their actions taken to control the Covid19 pandemic and also to have created animosity towards various communities,” the gag order signed by Pranaya Ashok, deputy commissioner of Mumbai Police, operations, read.

The order, effective from May 25 to June 8, has under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), specifically directed legal action against those criticising the state and its functioning in the times of COVID-19.

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As per the order, any person contravening this prohibitory order will be prosecuted under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code.

The opposition BJP is alleging the order to be drawing similarities from the time of emergency.

BJP’s Mumbai unit spokesperson Suresh Nakhua said that the Emergency was in the Congress’s DNA.

“Emergency is in the DNA of Congress and its allies. Gag order issued in Maharashtra,” Nakhua tweeted, along with a copy of the order.

“A gag order is prima facie illegal and beyond the scope of section 144 of CrPC. The Magistrate does not have such wide and unbridled powers. In a democracy, every Institution has to function within the prescribed parameters. So, for the magistrate to forbid a citizen from having a contrarian opinion is not only illegal but also offensive,” Justice Anjana Prakash, former judge of Patna high court told The Wire.

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