Kerala HC: Sharing Edited Photos on Social Media Not a Crime Under Section 120(o) of Kerala Police Act

Kerala HC Law Insider

LI Network

Published on: 18 September 2023 at 17:00 IST

Merely sharing an edited photo on social media platforms like Facebook does not constitute an offense under Section 120(o) of the Kerala Police Act, according to a recent ruling by the Kerala High Court.

In the case of Fr Geevarghese John @ Subin John v The State of Kerala & Anr., Justice PV Kunhikrishnan clarified that for the offense to apply, the accused must cause harm or nuisance to another person through their posts.

The court emphasized that declaring all Facebook posts as offenses under Section 120(o) of the Kerala Police Act would be impractical. Justice Kunhikrishnan expressed concern about the proliferation of defamatory posts on social media platforms like Facebook and urged the legislature to address this issue, given the modern era of technology and widespread use of social media.

The case before the court involved an appeal by a Jacobite church priest who challenged a decision by the Magistrate Court to allow the registration of a case against him under Section 120(o) of the Kerala Police Act.

The priest was accused of editing a photograph from a hunger strike protest and altering the wording on a banner, which he then shared on Facebook (Meta), allegedly defaming the complainant and other Malankara Orthodox Church priests.

After a thorough examination of the case’s facts and the provisions of the Kerala Police Act, the High Court concluded that merely sharing an edited photo did not meet the criteria for the alleged offense. Consequently, the High Court allowed the appeal and terminated all ongoing proceedings before the Magistrate Court.

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