'Freedom of speech not unlimited': Uttarakhand DGP amid uproar over 'anti-national' content scrutiny

Express News Service
DEHRADUN: After uproar on Uttarakhand police’s announcement to scrutinize social media accounts posting ‘anti-national’ content to block the approval of passport and arms license, Director-General of police Ashok Kumar said that ‘Freedom of Expression’ is not ‘unlimited’. 

“My statement related to not give clean chit to those posting against integrity and sovereignty of the country is being given unnecessary spin. I want to make it clear to all of You that the values for passport verification already have this. I have just made sure of the implementation of the same. Number 6 of part B of passport verification form clarifies this. I also want to make it clear that ‘Freedom of Expression’ is not unlimited. In the name of freedom of expression no one can speak against integrity and sovereignty of the nation,” said the DGP in his Facebook post on Thursday late evening. 

However, legal experts disagree on what the DGP has to say to justify the move.

Dr Kartikey Hari Gupta, a doctorate in law and law practitioner in Uttarakhand High Court and Supreme Court of India said, “Police has no authority to adjudicate whether any statement is anti-national or not. Article 19 provides reasonable restrictions on individual freedoms and time and again the Supreme Court of India has held that freedom of speech and expression can not be curtailed merely on the particular understanding of the executive branch. its only judiciary which can judge whether any statement or behaviour is prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of the country”.

He further added, “Police has only function to investigate and not prejudge and behaviour or statement as anti-national. Passport verification record is to be filled by the intelligence branch of police on the basis of the record. Without any verdict of any court by which a person has been found guilty of threatening behaviour how can Police itself prejudge any person or behavior as anti-national.”

Avtar Singh Rawat, a senior advocate from Supreme Court of India who also practices in Uttarakhand High Court and took active participation in statehood agitation of Uttarakhand said, “The job of the police is to investigate and verify. They can not block anyone from anything. If they receive any such information they can ascertain its authenticity.”

Earlier this week, Uttarakhand police announced that it will now keep track of social media behaviour pattern of those frequently posting ‘anti-national’ and ‘anti-social’ posts. 

The state police will keep track of such people and will mention this while verifying their documents for passport and arms license. 

Earlier, the state police would counsel the person asking her/him not to indulge in any such behaviour in future instead of booking a person right away. 

Officials from the department said that the move comes after alleged ‘surge’ in such posts and social media accounts.