In a development which could have significant ramifications, the Madras High Court on Friday registered a suo motu case to consider the question of whether law enforcement authorities should create a dedicated wing to take suo motu action against offences based on reports on social media and newspapers/ television, without waiting for a formal complaint.
A Bench of Justices N Kirubakaran and B Pugalendhi was prompted to take up the issue after a video of a police constable in Tenkasi publicly misbehaving with a woman went viral on social media and eventually came to be reported in the New Indian Express.
The Court took suo motu cognisance of the New Indian Express report on the incident titled “Despite viral video, no action taken against TN cop who demanded sex with Narikurava woman.”
“No woman will be safe in our country if the police behaves like that! Social media is the right media, it should be treated like a complaint. You don’t wait for a complaint”, Justice N Kirubakaran orally remarked on Friday.
The Court, therefore, suggested that a dedicated wing be created so that offences reported on social media platforms and other media outlets are brought to the notice of the authorities without waiting for a formal complaint.
The Court proceeded to seek the response of the State government and police authorities in the matter.
“Since this issue is an eye-opener, this Court thinks it fit to take it as a suo motu PIL and give appropriate direction for a separate wing to be formed to take suo motu action whenever any wrong is committed or offence committed is shown in social media or reported in newspapers and the visual media,” the Court said.
The Bench added that, “This kind of action is necessary especially when offences against women and children is increasing day by day.”
The commission of many offences are reported in newspapers and shown in the visual media and on social media. However, no action is being taken, the Court pointed out. The authorities, including the police, cannot expect formal complaints in every case, the Bench went on to add.
On the other hand, if a committed wing is formed as described above, authorities can be promptly informed of widely reported offences without pushing the parties to file a complaint or come to the court for relief. This would enable people to get confidence in the system, the Court said.
“It seems the police has let him off,“ Justice Kirubakaran orally remarked during the hearing today, while referring to the Tenkasi incident.
On the other hand, the Judge pointed out that when any comment is made against a higher up, even it is a Facebook comment, “you arrest immediately.”
“It is very serious issue that a police man behaves in such a manner with a woman. What is the message that it sends? The safety of the lady is threatened. The drunken state (of the constable) cannot be an excuse,” he added.
“You cannot expect everybody and everything to give you a complaint. It is appearing in the social media, the newspapers. You don’t have to wait for a complaint. There should be a separate wing, to bring it to the notice of concerned authorities,” the Court proceeded to emphasise.
While no names were taken, a passing reference was also made to case involving the allegedly abusive videos featuring former judge, Justice CS Karnan, with the Bench orally observing that the Police waited for a court order before it responded in the matter.
The Court remarked that in some cases, there may be rowdy elements or persons with political clout involved, making people hesitant to come forward and register a complaint.
Justice Kirubakaran, however, added that he was happy to note that the public intervened and came to the rescue of the lady in the Tenkasi incident.
The Court proceeded to implead various State authorities in the suo motu case registered today, including the Chief Secretary, the Home Secretary and the Director-General of Police. The Sankarankovil Police, which is alleged to have let off the suspected cop in the Tenkasi incident, and the SP of the Tirunelveli police have also been impleaded as parties.
Appearing for the State, Additional Advocate General Sricharan Rangarajan undertook to obtain instructions in the matter. The matter has been posted for further consideration next week.