The Delhi High Court ruled on Monday that any offensive post on social media targeting an individual belonging to a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe community will be punishable by law. However, a post aimed at a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe community, that is offensive but does not target a particular individual, will not invite any action under the law.
According to a report in the Times of India, as per the ruling, if an individual makes a casteist slur against a person or a community online then she or he can be prosecuted under the Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
"When a member registered with Facebook changes the privacy settings to 'public' from 'private', it makes his/her writings on the 'wall' accessible not only to the other members who are befriended by the author of the writings on the "wall", but also by any other member registered with Facebook," the judgement read, adding "Even if privacy settings are retained by a Facebook member as "private", making of an offending post by the member — which falls foul of Section under Section 3(1)(x) of the SC/ST Act — may still be punishable."
However, the High Court clarified that in case the complainant and the person who posted the offensive comment on social media are related, the ruling will not apply.
Justice Vipin Sanghi was ruling on the case filed by a woman belonging to a Scheduled Caste, in which she had alleged that her co-sister (the wife of her husband's brother), who hailed from the so-called forward Rajput community, was harassing and insulting her community on Facebook. "She used bad words for Dhobis," the complianant had told the court.
In her defence, the co-sister had said that her post had never directly named the complainant and was directed against women belonging to the Dhobi community in general. She had also argued that her Facebook wall was a private space and no one had the right to barge into it by stealth and then feel offended.
Quashing the FIR lodged in the case, Justice Sanghi ruled that generalised statements not directed against a particular individual belonging to the SC/ST will not invite any penal action.
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