Kashmir police has filed a first information report (FIR) against social media users employing proxy servers and VPN to access social media services under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). The move comes weeks after centre had restored Internet access on January 25 in the region but only for select whitelisted websites that didn't include any social media services.
According to a press release shared by Kashmir Police on its website, the department claims that there “have been continuous reports of misuse of social media sites by the miscreants to propagate the secessionist ideology and to promote unlawful activities.” However, an Indian Express report noted that the police decision to file an FIR against those using VPN servers came a day after a video of ailing Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani was uploaded on social media, suggesting that Geelani's video could be one of the reasons for sudden action by the police in the matter.
Inspector General of Police (Kashmir) Vijay Kumar has also made an appeal to general public not to use social media via VPN.
“The FIR has been registered while taking cognisance of the social media posts by the miscreants by use of different VPNs, which are propagating rumours with regard to the current security scenario of the Kashmir valley, propagating secessionist ideology and glorifying terror acts/ terrorists. Lot of incriminating material has also been seized in this regard,” the police said in a statement.
The police claims that they have taken the action over a J&K UT government order dated January 14 that bans the use of all social media sites to curb the misuse of these sites. They have filed the FIR under Sections 13 of UAPA, 188 and 505 of the Indian Penal Code and 66-A (b) of IT Act. Notably, the Section 66A of IT Act was struck down by the Supreme Court back in 2015 and the top court even ordered the various state governments to sensitise cops about the same last year.
This is the first FIR to be filed under the newly formed Cyber Police Station Kashmir Zone, Srinagar, and the use of Section 66A of IT Act puts the legality of the whole FIR in question.
To recall, centre had banned all Internet access in the region back in August last year ahead of the nullification of Article 370 of the constitution. While the ban of 3G and 4G services still continues, 2G services were restored last month but initially only 301 websites were whitelisted, the number was later extended to over 1400 websites.