The Kerala High Court has ruled that merely posting a manipulated photo on social media sites like Facebook (now known as Meta) will not amount to an offence under Section 120(o) of the Kerala Police Act.
A bench of justice PV Kunhikrishnan said: "If this Court started to hold that all these Facebook posts amount to an offence under Section 120(o) of the Kerala Police Act, 2011, almost all posts made on Facebook are to be declared as an offence under Section 120(o) of the Kerala Police Act."
However, the Court opined that the legislature should examine the issue since defamatory posts continue to do the rounds on social media.
"The defamatory Facebook posts continue to do the rounds on Facebook and other social media platforms. There is no proper punishment for such defamatory statements and posters on Facebook. The legislature must look into this aspect seriously, especially against the backdrop of this new era of technology and social media mania in existence in our society," it said, while considering an appeal filed by a Syrian Jacobite Church priest challenging the decision of the magistrate court granting permission to register a case against him under Section 120 (o) of the Kerala Police Act.
Incidentally, the complainant, who is a priest from the Syrian Orthodox church, sat on a hunger strike along with 35 priests from his church on August 8, 2017, holding a banner. The allegation was that a photograph showing the hunger strike was edited by the appellant and the wording on the banner was changed and he then put up the same on Facebook thereby, defaming the de facto complainant and the other Orthodox Church priests.
The trial court permitted registration of a case under Section 120(o) of the Kerala Police Act, prompting the appellant to approach the High Court. But the High Court, after close perusal of the facts of the case as well as the provisions of the Kerala Police Act, it found that the post in question, which was just a manipulated photo and would not attract the offence alleged.
Therefore, the High Court allowed the appeal and quashed all the proceedings pending before the magistrate court.
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