Allahabad High Court has imposed a social media gag as condition for granting bail to a person accused of making objectionable remarks against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and other public representatives. Akhilanand Rao, the bail applicant, is not allowed to use social media for two years, or until conclusion of the case at the Trial Court, whichever is earlier. LiveLaw first reported this.

Rao has been accused of falsely showing his status to “obtain undue advantages”, per the court order. However, Rao’s lawyer argued that the police had booked Rao under false claims. Rao has been in in jail since May 2020, and has a criminal history of 11 cases. A Single Bench of Justice Siddharth held that should Rao use social media before the stipulated time, his bail will be cancelled.

Courts around the country issue social media gag orders

Social media gag orders as a condition of bail, are steadily becoming more prevalent across judgements. The Allahabad High Court itself, in May this year, had prohibited senior Congress leader Sachin Choudhary — who was arrested for holding a press conference during the lockdowns — from using social media until the case is resolved. But, there have been more such orders:

  • In September, the Kerala High Court told a rape-accused that he may not use social media while on bail, until the investigation is over. The court held that it was important for the accused to not use social media in order to protect the survivor’s privacy.
  • In August, the Madhya Pradesh High Court granted bail to a student only after he agreed to stay away from social media for two months. It also directed the 18-year old student to submit monthly reports of his “digital detoxification”.
  • In March, a Delhi court granted bail to three men, and prohibited them from posting any opinion relating to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Population Register (NPR) or National Register of Citizens (NRC) on social media.
  • In November 2019, the Madras High Court granted bail to a Jabin Charles, who had posted a morphed picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Facebook, only after he agreed to stay off social media for a year.

Choudhary had appealed the Allahabad High Court’s order at the Supreme Court, but the apex court held that social media “can be used by a person like a gun”, while upholding the high court’s order. However, it also said that it would lay down proper guidelines on the matter of social media.

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