On July 10, 2020 a bench comprising of Chief Justice S.A Bobde, Justice R. Subhash Reddy and justice A.S Bopanna decided to examine whether restrictions can be imposed on use of social media while granting bail to a person charged with criminal case.
The Supreme court was hearing an appeal which was earlier filled by two minor children of Congress politician Sachin Choudhary of Uttar Pradesh who was granted bail, in a Sedition casefor holding press conference in breach of lockdown rules to criticise the Central and the UP Government, on the condition that he cannot use social media till the trial ends.
Choudhary was arrested on 11th April, 2020and was charged under various provisions of Indian Penal code, The Disaster Management Act, and Information Technology Act for disobeying lockdown norms. Amroha police tweeted that he held a press conference amid the lockdown without permission where he spread many rumours about coronavirus and also used social media to target Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath for allegedly mishandling the coronavirus pandemic
On May 20, 2020, the Allahabad High Court granted bail to the politician and asked him to refrain from posting anything on social media till pendency of the case against him. Arguing against it he submitted for modification of such condition before the High Court seeking deletion of such condition. The Court refused to delete the said condition. Although it modified it to the extent that the restraint on the use of social media would continue on the applicant for a period of 18 months or till the end of the trial, whichever is earlier. Further, the appeal was filled in the supreme court. Advocate Khurshid, representing the politician, contended that there is no allegation against his client in connection with the misuse of social media.
The bench observed that High Court’s approach did not seem unreasonable to prevent further mischief.The court rejected Choudhary’s interim plea. At the same time, the bench noted that it would consider laying down proper guidelines on the matter on whether a court while granting bail on criminal matters, could restrict a person from using social media. It also observed that it would also examine if such restrictions can be imposed when the crime committed has nothing to do with social media access. It issued a notice to Uttar Pradesh Government and to Centre and has fixed the matter for August 28.