Uttarakhand police have decided to check social media accounts of passport applicants and may not clear the verification or arms license if the applicant is found putting “anti-national” posts, state director general of police Ashok Kumar said on Tuesday.

Briefing the press, Kumar said: “Till now, in case a person was putting anti-national posts or fake news on social media, police used to counsel him and ask him not to repeat it in future. A case was registered only if it was very serious.”

“From now onwards, the police will scrutinise the accused’s social media behaviour to check if he is habitually putting such anti-national posts. If it is found so, then the police would mention it in his/her police verification and may not clear his application for passport or arms license,” he said during the conclusion of the state police officers’ conference.

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The conference was held at police headquarters in Dehradun.

According to the police, the directive has been passed to improve policing in the state.

“The decision was taken as there has been an increase in people putting anti-national posts on social media in the state,” another police officer told HT.

“The social media monitoring team has been keeping a strict eye to track down such people. It was found that the number of such posts on social media platforms has increased, which is a clear threat to law and order,” the officer said.

This has perturbed legal experts in the state as they see the move as an infringement of an individual’s freedom of expression.

A senior lawyer at Uttarakhand High Court, Kartikeya Gupta, said to HT, “It is a complete infringement of an individual’s freedom of expression. Police have no right to decide whether a post on social media is anti-national or not; it is the job of the courts.”