Press Council of India chief Markandey Katju on Monday demanded “immediate” action against police personnel for arresting a woman in Mumbai protesting the shutdown in the city on Bal Thackeray’s demise on social networking site Facebook. In an e-mail to the Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, he warned of “legal consequences” if the CM failed to act.
“I will deem it that you as CM are unable to run the state in a democratic manner as envisaged by the Constitution to which you have taken oath and then legal consequences will follow,” Katju said.
“To my mind it is absurd to say that protesting against the bandh hurts religious sentiments. Under Article 19 of our Constitution, freedom of speech is guaranteed fundamental right. We are living in a democracy, not a fascist dictatorship. “In fact, this arrest itself appears to be a criminal act since under sections 341 and 342, it is a crime to wrongfully arrest or wrongfully confine someone who has committed no crime,” he added.
The woman, Shaheen Dhada who was arrested over a Facebook comment on Mumbai shutdown was granted bail, reports said on Monday.
Earlier, police said they had arrested Dhada, for criticising on Facebook the shutdown of Mumbai after the death of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, as well as a friend, Renu, who “liked” the comment.
She allegedly said that one should not observe bandh for Thackeray’s funeral. “We should remember Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev,” the post said.
“Police arrested both of them under section 505(2) (statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes). Today, they were granted bail,” their advocate Sudhir Gupta said.
The duo was arrested following a complaint lodged by a local Sena leader.
Immediately, after the comment a mob of nearly 40 Shiv Sainiks allegedly barged into Dhada’s uncles’s orthopaedic hospital at Palghar and vandalised the place on Sunday.
They were arrested on Sunday, when a huge funeral procession attended by hundreds of thousands of supporters was held in Mumbai for Thackeray.
News of his death on Saturday afternoon brought Mumbai to a standstill for the weekend, with businesses shutting and taxis going off the roads, amid fears of violence by Thackeray’s supporters.
While his followers mourned, others were angered at the hold Shiv Sena exerted over Mumbai. The 21-year-old arrested for her Facebook post was among many who aired opinions on social networking sites.
“Her comment said people like Thackeray are born and die daily and one should not observe a ‘bandh’ (city shutdown) for that,” police inspector Uttam Sonawane told the Mumbai Mirror newspaper.
“Filing a case against the girls is unfortunate and I hope Maharashtra government will correct it,” Congress spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit said in Delhi. He, however, said a comment or two a couple of days later could have been alright since it was a “sensitive time” on the day of Thackeray’s funeral.
Dikshit, at the same time, disapproved of the attack by the Sena activists.
Sudhir Gupta said the Facebook post at no place contains anything that insults anybody’s religious feelings.
“If you see the entire post, it nowhere insults anybody’s religious feelings,” he added.
Deven Bharti said the police probe will be conducted by Special IG of Konkan range Sukhwinder Singh.
“We have ordered an inquiry….if any further action needs to be taken the probe team will decide and send a report. On this report we will act,” he added.
“There were two major issues. We have asked him (Singh) to inquire whatever has been written, whether it qualifies for an offence. Second, even if the offence is registered, why the arrests were made, and under which circumstances were the arrests made,” he said.
Dr Abdul Yusuf Dhada, whose hospital was ransacked, said he has suffered heavy financial losses.
With the police coming under attack, Investigating Officer Shrikant Pingle said anybody can comment on Facebook. “But one should make good comments which doesn’t hurt others’ sentiments,” he added.