FB comment on Bal Thackeray sends girls behind bars

By : |November 19, 2012 0

BANGALORE, INDIA: Arrests for comments and illustrations on social media and the Web are becoming commonplace these days.

The latest on the ignominious list is the arrest of two girls in Mumbai for commenting on Sunday about the demise of Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray. They were remanded to police custody for 14 days, before being bailed out by paying a Rs. 15,000 bond.

“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 reportedly stated. In fact, one girl was arrested for the comment and another for merely ‘liking’ it.


The girls were booked under Section 505 of the Indian Penal Code, which is for inciting violence and Section 295 (a) of IPC (for hurting religious sentiments) and Section 64 (a) of the Information Technology Act, 2000. After a police complaint was filed by a local Shiv Sena leader, Sena activists allegedly vandalized the first girl’s uncle’s medical clinic, broke window panes and flowerpots.

Quite recently, a small businessman in Puducherry, Ravi S, was arrested under Section 66-A of the Information Technology Act for allegedly posting ‘offensive’ messages on the micro-blogging site Twitter targeting Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s son Karti Chidambaram.

In September, a Kanpur-based freelance cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was arrested on charges of sedition and was remanded to two-week judicial custody. He was arrested under IPC Section 124 (sedition), section 66 A of Information Technology Act and section 2 of Prevention of Insults to Nation Honour Act. He was remanded in police custody till September 16 and subsequently, was granted bail.

Back in April, a Jadavpur University chemistry professor, Ambikesh Mahapatra, was arrested for sending e-mails containting a spoof on Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and railway minister Mukul Roy.

Section 66A of the IT Act 2000 states that a person must be punished for sending informaton on computers that is grossly offensive or has menacing character. “‘Grossly offensive’ or ‘has menacing character’ are vast terms. The Section 66A allows to muddle freedom of speech with parameters far beyond the parameters of Indian Constitution,” says Pavan Duggal, cyber law expert.

Till the 66A is amended, it will be a tool of harassment. Unless it is amended, every day there will be many committing offences in public life, adds Duggal.

He feels Section 66A was a historic blunder as barring a few cyber crimes, it made all others as bailable. That erases the element of deterrence. “Once out on bail, the person can tamper with incriminating electronic content.”

Moreover, IT rule 2011 mandates that once a complaint is filed, the party under question is required to act within 36 hours and disable content, but there are no penalties specified for that. According to Duggal, the Section 66A must be specifically revisited with more clarity on wide embed words.

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