Madhya Pradesh HC examined “Can state violate privacy rights of accused by publishing their photographs in media or parading them?”

MP High Court puts bail condition: Asks the arrested person to “Go for counseling”

Justice G.S Ahulwalia was considering a petition filed by a man who alleged that his photographs in the custody of the police were also made viral in the social media which has tarnished his image in the society. In response to this petition, the state filed a reply admitting that he was wrongly arrested and the concerned Sub Inspector was saddled with the punishment of fine of Rs.5000/-.

The state submitted that a circular has been issued in the year 2014 regarding sharing of information with media and the uncovered faces of an accused can be shared with the media subject to various restrictions as mentioned in the circular itself. In this regard, the Court arisen the following question of law in this case.

“Whether the State Govt. by issuing an executive instruction, can violate the Fundamental Rights of an accused as enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, by getting their uncovered faces published in the Newspaper or in any other form of media or by parading them in Society etc.?”

The Judge noted that the reply filed by the state is completely silent about the fact as to “whether violation of the rights and privacy of an innocent citizen of the country by publishing his photograph with uncovered face and projecting him as hard core criminal as well as tarnishing his reputation, is a normal mistake or is a serious misconduct?”. Further, the reply is also completely silent on the question of payment of compensation under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, Justice Ahluwalia noted.

To get a detailed response, the court directed the state to clarify the following queries and granted a week time to file a detailed reply.

(I) Whether gross violation of rights and privacy of an innocent citizen of India and tarnishing his reputation is a minor mistake or serious misconduct?

(II) Why due publicity of revocation of suspension of the Sub Inspector was not given in the newspaper thereby informing the general public that even in a case of gross violation of rights and privacy of an innocent person, a police officer can get away very easily?

(III) Furthermore, once the respondents have already admitted that they have grossly violated the rights and privacy of an innocent person, still then the return is completely silent on the question of payment of compensation under Article 21 of the Constitution of India?

(IV) Whether any enquiry into the allegations made against the respondents no. 4 and 5 was made or not and if so, its conclusion.

(V) It is mentioned in the punishment order dated 14-10-2020, that although the petitioner was not arrested, but he was detained in police station. Whether detention of a person in a police station without his formal arrest was permissible, because according to the respondents no. 1 and 2, the petitioner was detained as a person with similar name was wanted in a criminal case which was registered in the year 2011.

(VI) It has also been mentioned in the suspension order, that the news pertaining to the detention and photographs of the petitioner were uploaded on Social Media. The respondents no.1 and 2 are further directed to clarify that which law permits them to upload the photographs of an accused on Social Media?

In view of the importance of question which has arisen for consideration, the Court has requested the Advocate General to address the Court on this issue. Further, Senior Advocate Naval K. Gupta, and Advocate Prashant Sharma are appointed as Amicus curiaeto assist the Court.

Recently in the similar case, the Kerala High court had admitted a writ petition filed by a man about whom a troll video posted by Kerala police in its official Facebook page contending that this action of the police violates his fundamental right to privacy and is also in violation of guidelines issued under the provisions of the Kerala Police Act.

Arun Sharma vs. State of MP (WP No. 13057/2020)

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T. Madiha
I am T. Madiha, a final year student of BA.LL.B from Osmania University, Hyderabad. I'm spontaneous, attentive, and a good observer. I always would like to express my prior concern in research & writing skills as it enhance me to grow for the future endeavours in the legal field. I strongly believe in Theodore Roosevelt quote by focusing on my actions rather than words as he once said - "Do what you can with all you have, wherever you are". I have sole interests on various spheres of law and wants to change the societal issues for better world. I love to live in a dynamic environment where people help others to develop their skills, my suggestions have actively been taken up in the same.