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Online policing: SC serves govt show cause

Nov 23, 2015-

The Supreme Court has issued a show-cause notice to the government and concerned ministries for prosecuting civilians by defining their comments and opinions on social networking sites as cyber crimes.

Responding to a writ filed by advocate Pratyush Nath Upreti, a single bench of Justice Devendra Gopal Shrestha on Sunday asked the Prime Minister’s Office, Law Ministry and Information Ministry to explain the reasons behind the arrest of some citizens for sharing online contents and comments that apparently slandered the government ministers and even the President.
Upreti has claimed that the action is an outright attack on a person’s freedom of expression guaranteed by the constitution.
Upreti had filed the writ of mandamus, seeking nullification of clauses 1 and 2 of article 47 in the Electronic Transactions Act that curtails the right of free speech and freedom of expression.
The article states that a person displaying any material in the electronic media which “may be contrary to the public morality or decent behaviour, may spread hate or jealousy against anyone, or may jeopardise the harmonious relations among people shall be liable to the punishment with the fine not exceeding one hundred thousand rupees, or with the imprisonment not exceeding five years, or with both”.
In the writ petition, Uprety has argued that the words and phrases in the Act like “material”, “public morality”, “decent behaviour”, “hate”, and “jealousy” are not defined, and are open to interpretation, providing the state leeway to prosecute citizens for expressing themselves.
The article is also in contradiction with article 17 of the Constitution of Nepal 2015 which grants freedom of opinion and expression as a fundamental right.
The government has been accused of misusing the Act to detain its critics and to deter criticisms on social networking sites.


Source; The kathmandu Post, 23 November, 2015

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