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Constructive Criticism Only, Anti-govt social media posts now Crime in Bihar

By FnF Correspondent | PUBLISHED: 23, Jan 2021, 10:48 am IST | UPDATED: 26, Jan 2021, 11:56 am IST

Constructive Criticism Only, Anti-govt social media posts now Crime in Bihar

Patna: Offensive social media posts against the Bihar government, its ministers, MPs, legislators and state officials will now be treated as cybercrime and invite penal action, according to a circular issued by the head of state’s economic offences wing.

Under the Information Technology Act, cyber crimes are punishable with imprisonment up to seven years and fine or both.

The letter, addressed to all principal secretaries and secretaries of various departments in the state, has sought intimation of any such activity by individuals or organisations so that police could act on them.

Leader of the opposition Tejashwi Yadav shared a screenshot of the letter on his Twitter handle saying: “Look at the deeds of the Chief Minister (Nitish Kumar) who is following in the footsteps of Hitler”.

The Bihar government today went into damage-control mode over its order bringing offensive and defamatory social media posts against it, its ministers, and other officials, under the category of cybercrime. The state police today issued a clarification about the move saying that "constructive criticism was welcome" and only posts spreading rumours and using "insulting language" would be targeted.

"Criticism is healthy for democracy. But criticism must be constructive and the language used must fall within the norms of decency," said Jitendra Kumar, Additional Director General Headquarters. "This advisory was issued keeping in mind rumours and factually incorrect information and involving the use of insulting language on social media - these are punishable offences under the IT Act."

In a sign that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is rattled by criticism on internet platforms, he yesterday ordered the state police's Economic Offenses Wing, the nodal point for such crimes, to report and act against those who make such posts on social media.

Bihar is one of the few states that have rarely acted against offensive views and comments on the internet. A letter written yesterday by the chief of the Economic Offenses Wing, IG Nayyar Hasnain Khan, to all secretaries of the state government, however, changed things. The problem is that the power to decide whether a criticism is “constructive” rests with the government. Plus, the trend of copy-paste legislation across states means other states may be waiting to see how the Bihar move goes.

"It has come to light that certain persons and organisations have been making defamatory and offensive comments on social media against the government, respected ministers, parliamentarians, legislators, and government officials," IG Khan wrote in the letter.

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