In a significant legal development, the Madras High Court intervened in the case of Youtuber Manish Kashyap, nullifying his detention under the National Security Act (NSA) due to the alleged dissemination of fabricated videos portraying attacks on migrant workers from Bihar within Tamil Nadu. The decision, delivered by Justices M Sundar and R Sakthivel of the Madurai bench, halted the NSA proceedings but allowed the Information Technology Act charges to persist. The court’s ruling hinged on the failure of authorities to follow due process in Kashyap’sNSA detention.

The chronicle commenced with a complaint registered in March, triggered by a video purporting to exhibit the assault of migrant workers in Tamil Nadu. Subsequently, legal action was taken under sections 153, 153(A), 504, 505(1)(b), 505(1)(c), 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code, and Section 66D of the Information Technology Act. Despite Kashyap’s attempt to challenge his detention and consolidate various First Information Reports (FIRs) from Bihar and Tamil Nadu at the Supreme Court, the bench led by CJI DY Chandrachud redirected the plea to the High Court. The state contended that Kashyap’s substantial social media following of over six lakh individuals amplified panic and fear within the migrant labor community.

Tribhuwan Kumar Tiwari, Kashyap’s brother, sought relief from the Madras High Court through a habeas corpus plea, aiming to revoke the detention order. Tiwari’s legal representation underscored that despite Kashyap obtaining default bail in all six Tamil Nadu cases, essential documents justifying his detention were not provided. The Court, upon review, identified grounds to nullify the detention order, pending the formal release of the official judgment.

The ruling assumes critical importance, shedding light on the procedural inadequacies in invoking the NSA and emphasizing the significance of due process. It serves as a reminder of the delicate equilibrium between the freedom of expression and social responsibility, especially in the realm of social media, which possesses the capability to instigate public distress.

Under the Information Technology Act, Section 66D deals with punishment for cheating by personation by using a computer resource. The provision specifically addresses the creation or publication of false electronic records or false digital signatures, offering pertinent context to the charges under which Kashyap’scase continues.

The Madras High Court’s decision reiterates the crucial need for adherence to due process and legal protocols, especially in cases where individual rights intersect with the dissemination of content in the digital space. The outcome also reemphasizes the importance of prudently wielding legal provisions within the ambit of online content creation and dissemination, avoiding the undue escalation of alarm and panic within communities.

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