Tensions rise as many are outraged over two arrests made in Mumbai, India on Sunday, November 18, following a Facebook post and one like.
As we wrote yesterday, two girls, both aged around 21, were sanctioned for “hurting religious sentiments” under Section 295 (a) of the Indian Penal Code and under Section 64 (a) of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
One of the girls commented on the shutdown in Mumbai over processions for the funeral of Shiv Sena political leader Bal Thackeray. The other was charged for liking her friend's post.
“Thackeray are born and die daily and one should not observe a bandh for that,” the original comment reads, according to police official Uttam Sonawane.
Both women were released on bail on Monday, but the incident raised concerns over the formulation and enforcement of the Indian Information Technology Act.
Congress spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit asked for officials to drop the case against the girls, however mentioned they should have chosen a less "sensitive time" to use their right to free speech.
“Filing a case against the girls is unfortunate and I hope Maharashtra government will correct it,” she says.
Investigating officer Shrikant Pingle argues that free speech comes with the responsibility of being careful not to affect those around you negatively.
“But one should make good comments which doesn't hurt others' sentiments,” he states.
Indian Press Council leader Markandey Katju, quoted by the Hindustan Times, points out that said comment was in no way insulting, nor did it touch on freedom of religion.
“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 explains.
He is asking for the arresting officers to face "legal consequences" for wrongful persecution and failing to enforce the law.
“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 adds.