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Social Media Trials: A Hegemony

Social media has found its way into every component and part of our lives.

On average Indians spend around 2.5-4 hours daily on social media and maybe the rising usage can largely be linked to falling of internet and data costs. Many have even understood that social media is a very easy way to sway and manipulate an individual personality negatively or positively.

In the very recent times, there have been incidents of verdicts being passed by people on their social handles, they tend to make a person guilty without even having any substantial evidence even though the law says innocent until proven guilty.

So, Why & how declaring someone guilty on their social media handles can be a problem?

Prejudicial

What is Prejudice?

Prejudice is a pre-judgment without having adequate knowledge of the subject matter. it's a very enlightening fact that prejudice often relies on stereotypes and biasedness. for instance, linking homemaking to a woman or associating pink color with women. Prejudice is an attitude that can lead a person to commit crimes and can trigger other abusive actions.

Recently, A teenage girl made allegations on social media against a boy of raping her and the moment the story broke out, it led to people posting things in support of the girl and started to defame the boy and ended up declaring him as guilty without acknowledging the whole factual case and even having any dime of authority on the case in hand.

These claims remained on headlines on various social media handles for several days, followed by the boy committing suicide.

The next thing we see is that people started to turn their backs away from the girl and started to share a thread named my brother is not a rapist.

Now the first thing that strikes one's conscience is people were just being hypocritical about someone and their hypocrisy made someone’s life suicidal, causing the irreversible damage. there’s no denying the crime, even if he did something that he shouldn’t have, we don’t get to pass the verdict that too by the means of social media.

Now let's take a closer look into the case:
People began to support a girl’s claim without having any evidence and in days ahead turning a blind eye against her.

Prejudice kicked the moment the girl posted the whole scenario on the internet and its pretty much obvious to believe it at first stance if we look at it in the female lens and also because of the stereotypical thinking that comes in. It makes one believe that men tend to harass women counterparts which is more frequent.

But it should not be ignored that 1 in 10 men are the victim of rape/harassment/molestation and sometimes, victims of false accusations.

The moment the girl leveled allegations against him and was trolled and defamed by several others with a huge amount of messages. The social algorithm worked and might have possibly affected him mentally. Extraordinary shaming and the subsequent threats he received over his cell phone caused extreme shame and fear which prompted him to commit suicide.
In most of such cases, the person who committed such an act thought that his/her side would not be heard.

What we need to understand?

Media has the power to influence and revolutionalize masses. with that fact on hand the responsibility of every individual active on the internet increases.
A biased comment made by someone can build or malign the image of an individual.

Doubtlessly the Indian Constitution grants the right to freedom of speech and expression along with the freedom of the press under clause 19(1) (a) but, there are certain restrictions to its applicability which are stated in its very next clause.

It is a fundamental of democracy that the media is largely unrestricted. it is also correct that this remains unchanged and celebrated but what's tricky is that it can undermine a person's right to a fair trial.

Social media instantly turns alive with gossips, trolls, and threats, and people will suddenly have an opinion about an unknown being which is why the assertion of someone being guilty until proven is prohibited by the law.

The importance of social media

like we are aware, everything has its pros and cons and so has social media.

Social Media has connected people. It has given people a platform to share their reviews, opinions. Social media has been the voice of the suppressed and fearful. People can voice out their opinions and reach out to a large group of audience easily and it is not less of a fact that many scandals in the past were uncovered with the use of social media.

Social media is one of the freest in the world in terms of legal constraints.

But is it right to allow social media to reincarnate itself into a courtroom?

In this way, it prejudices the public and sometimes even judges. As a result the accused, that should be assumed innocent, is presumed as a criminal leaving all his/her rights and liberty un-redressed. The justice system which we have been following states that guilt must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

To further knowledge the law is not governed by emotions. While displaying the emotions the masses forget that they are putting a good amount of pressure on the person who will be presiding over the cases.

Rather in the society drenched in framing toxic masculinity, toxic femininity the trend is to declare someone guilty on the social media which is thereby motivated by emotions and not law. Social media should not be the medium of passing judgments by unauthorized beings.

It’s a powerful tool and everyone must have this unrestrained right. However, we still need to be more educated and aware legally of the risks it poses.

Legal Outlook
Given the extensive use of social media, the whole pattern of publication of news reports has changed and due to this, it can also have a prejudicial impact on the cases which can likely affect the suspects, accused, witnesses, and even the judges to an extent. In the past year, a law commission report even suggested a law to tackle trial by media. Trial which unprecedently goes over social media can be a contempt of court and even defamation in certain cases.

The commission suggested the prohibition of elements that can prove to be prejudicial towards the accused. Justice Sikri even remarked about hard it hits the case when the people on the media decide and publish what should be the outcome of a case.

In this era of social media, someone orchestrates a story and puts it on social media and it becomes viral within hours and reach billions of people, it deeply affects the privacy of a person and causes loss of dignity even though the accused might be guilty but the law does not iterate that the person should be prosecuted by the social media. Social media was a platform made for discussion but rather it has become a platform for hatred, fake news, and bullying.

In the case of Uma Khurana, a teacher in Delhi school was almost lynched by the mob on the suspicion that she had allegedly forced her students into prostitution however she was acquitted due to lack of evidence. This is what social media can do a person, even the innocents are not spared in many cases. The solution to this only a proper legal framework that disseminates awareness about the law and people must be held accountable for what they do on social media.

Written By: Madhav Maheshwari

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