Thursday, September 24, 2020

Petitioner hopes High Court intervention ends Islamophobic posts

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Hyderabad: A day after the Telangana High Court issued notices to Twitter and the Centre over Islamophobic posts, the lawyer-petitioner said on Tuesday that he hoped that the courts intervention on his PIL will put an end to the hate peddled on the social media.

Khaja Aijazuddin, a practising advocate at the High Court, told IANS that since the government had failed to act to make Twitter remove objectionable and illegal posts, the court will do the needful to prevail upon the government to do its duty.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Justice Raghavendra Singh Chauhan and Justice B Vijaysen Reddy on Monday ordered notices to the Union Cabinet Secretary, the Union Home Secretary, Telangana Director General of Police, Hyderabad Commissioner of Police, and Twitter Inc, represented by its Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Justice Raghavendra Singh Chauhan and Justice B Vijaysen Reddy on Monday ordered notices to the Union Cabinet Secretary, the Union Home Secretary, Telangana Director General of Police, Hyderabad Commissioner of Police, and Twitter Inc, represented by its Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey.

The court asked all five respondents to file their replies and posted the next hearing to July 20.

The Public Interest Litigation plea sought orders to Twitter to remove the Islamophobic posts and illegal trends linking coronavirus to Islam. He also prayed for criminal action against Twitter and its users who posted hateful posts.

The petition pointed out that illegal trends are run on Twitter with hashtags like #Islamiccoronavirusjihad, #Coronajihad, #Tablighijamat, #Nizamuddinidiots, #TablighiJamatVirus and other Islamophobic posts.

Aijazuddin also sought orders to restrain all online sites in India from carrying Islamophobic posts as they hurt the feelings of the Muslim community, pointing out that such posts may disturb the communal harmony in the country.

The petitioner submitted to the court that he had made representations to the respondents in the first week of April to prevail upon Twitter to delete the inflammatory trends but they failed to act.

He had initially filed the PIL under Article 32 of the Constitution of India in the Supreme Court but the apex court asked him to approach the Telangana High Court.

The petitioner referred to the guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO) which clearly stipulate that attaching the religion with the pandemic is not permissible.

“Attaching the religion to pandemic disease which is done by social network users on Twitter is highly unwarranted, illegal and unconstitutional,” the petitioner argued.

He further argued that the failure of the authorities to act on his representations is nothing but violation of rule of law.

“The petitioner’s rights have been infringed and it is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India as the State is duty-bound to show utmost impartially towards its citizens to maintain equality of law or protections of law within the territory of India.”

“With the counters being invited from respondents, I feel that the court has taken cognizance that my PIL has got a point,” Aijazuddin told IANS on Monday.

The lawyer said the government instrumentalities were empowered under the law to act over the hateful posts and since they failed to act, he exuded confidence that the court will prevail up on the government to take action against Twitter or any company spreading hatred.

He pointed out that as per Information Technology Act of 2000, attacking any community on social media is an offence and prosecution has to be ordered by the government of India or state government.

“Twitter has to give an explanation why it allowed such content while the government has to give an explanation to the court as to why they failed to act. For two and half months they have not taken any action. Is it not the duty of the government to prevail upon Twitter to stop this? Will they act only if the court passes an order?” he asked.

The lawyer feels that there is a “hidden conspiracy” behind the massive Twitter trends targeting Islam and Muslims.

“I have noticed massive trends on Twitter. I have come to know some people choose a topic on a particular day. They tweet, re-tweet and it goes on and on. If needed I will amend my prayer to initiate a CBI inquiry into what is happening,” he said.

Aijazuddin pointed out how countries like the United States, China, Thailand and Japan act quickly to block any tweet which is offensive, against the public at large and violate the law of the land.

“In India they can trend or tweet whatever they want to against Islam and Muslims, linking them to coronavirus and calling for Muslims to be thrown into the Bay of Bengal. This should be stopped immediately. Today it is the Muslims, tomorrow the Sikhs, the Dalits, or some other community may become the target,” he added.

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