Social media is good in the hands of the worthy, but for some it is "an unrestricted playground of their wildest predilections", the Kerala High Court said on Thursday and added that while freedom of speech and expression was a "valuable" right, some "misuse it to the extreme". The observations by Justice Devan Ramachandran came while referring to the social media posts of a former judicial officer who made "disrespectful" and "vitriolic" comments about the orders passed by the high court in relation to the investigation against self-styled antiques dealer Monson Mavunkal.
The former judicial officer had also made personal attacks against the judge, the court noted. Justice Ramachandran said subsequently he asked the former judicial officer to appear before the court and inform it where it was going wrong, instead of immediately initiating action against him under the Contempt of Courts Act.
However, the former judicial officer did not appear before the court, prompting it to say, during the hearing, that he was a "coward". "The tragedy with present days is that busy bodies feel that they can vitriolically say and comment about anything on social media under the impression that no accountability will come to them."
"Social media is good in the hands of the good and worthy. But for some it is an unrestrained playground of their wildest predilections," the court said.
The high court subsequently, in its order, noted that after the former judicial officer was asked to appear before it, he "responded" by again "ridiculing" the court and "calling it fascist". It also noted that the High Court Registry found that he had also put up posts projecting himself as a martyr and threatening to harm himself.
"The scenario is, thus, clear. The mindset of this individual is nihilistic and I, therefore, close this opportunity of hearing to him, recognising that he will have nothing worthwhile to say," Justice Ramachandran said.
He further said that free speech was a "key to the intellect" and the power of expression was "the most valuable and powerful facet of human existence", but a few "misuse the freedom to its extreme".
The court said that it was the actions of such persons which "compels" even the right thinking citizens to seek regulation of the online space.
Justice Ramachandran said the only punishment he can offer the former judicial officer for his "wanton utterances" was to treat the same as inconsequential and "deny him his 15 minutes of fame".
With these observations, the court dismissed the summons it had issued to the former judicial officer and directed the High Court Registry to take requisite action as per law, on the compilation made by it of his posts, after obtaining necessary orders from the Chief Justice.