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Delhi High Court rules any offensive post on Social Media targeting SC/ST community is punishable

  • The Delhi High Court recently while hearing a plea filed by a Scheduled Caste woman against her co-sister, who is a Rajput over a Facebook post has clarified that any offensive post on social media targeting individual of SC/ST, even in a closed group is a punishable offence.

    In the instant matter, the complainant said her co-sister was harassing and abusing her case on social networking site like on Facebook that her co-sister used bad words for dhobis.  

    Justice Vipin Sanghi held that, “When a number registered with Facebook changes the privacy settings to ‘public’ from ‘private, it makes his or her writing on the wall not only accessible not only to the other members who are befriended by the author of the writing on the wall but also with any other member registered with Facebook. However, even if the privacy settings are retained by Facebook member as “private”, making and offending post by the member which foul of Section under Section 3(1)(x) of the SC/ST Act- may still be punishable.

    Justice Sangi also clarified that “public view” means “a place where public persons are present- however small they may be in number”.

    The bench held that the Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, will apply if a casteist slur is made against a person from these communities. The court also clarified the finer legal issues by stating that “"it would make no difference whether the privacy settings are set by the author of the offending post to "private" or "public" as sections of SC/ST Act do not require that the intentional insult or intimidation with an intention to humiliate a member of the SC or ST should take place in the presence of the said member. Even if the victim is not present, and behind his/her back the offending insult or intimidation with the intention to humiliate him/her - who is a member of the SC/ST takes place, the same would be culpable if it takes place within public view".

    The Court has further clarified that the only exception from prosecution under these cases would be if the complainant or those connected to him/her on Facebook are related to each other.

    Though this judgment came in reference to Facebook Wall the ruling can extend to other social media outlets such as Whatsapp which have closed privacy setting.


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