Supreme Court: How Many Will Be Jailed Before Polls?

Supreme Court Live Streaming Law Insider

Published on: April 08, 14:20 IST

Supreme Court has reinstated the bail granted to A Duraimurugan Sattai, a Youtuber accused of making derogatory remarks against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin. The court’s bench, comprising Justices Abhay S Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan, emphasized the importance of free speech in the digital age, stating that not every individual making allegations on social media platforms like Youtube should face incarceration.

During the hearing, Justice Oka posed a critical question, highlighting the potential chilling effect on free speech if individuals were imprisoned merely for expressing views on platforms like Youtube, especially in the run-up to elections. The court dismissed the notion of imposing restrictions on Sattai’s speech while on bail, challenging the state’s counsel on the subjective nature of determining what constitutes “scandalous” remarks.

The case originated from Sattai’s appeal against a Madras High Court order revoking his bail. The High Court had cited Sattai’s alleged violation of an undertaking given to the court by making further derogatory comments against the Chief Minister. Sattai’s plea for justice reached the Supreme Court in July 2022, which subsequently upheld his bail granted in August 2021, allowing him to remain out of custody for over two and a half years.

In defense of the state’s position, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi highlighted two FIRs filed against Sattai in late 2022 and early 2023. However, the Supreme Court’s verdict underscores the significance of protecting free expression, especially in the context of political discourse and social media commentary.

This ruling comes amid the backdrop of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, scheduled to be conducted in seven phases commencing on April 19, with results slated for declaration on June 4. The Supreme Court’s decision not only safeguards individual liberties but also raises pertinent questions about the boundaries of free speech in the digital age and its implications on democratic processes.

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