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Friday 30 November 2012

જુઓ ટાઈમ્સ ઓફ ઈન્ડીઆ, મુંબઈમાં ૩૦.૧૧.૨૦૧૨ના સમાચાર : Explain Facebook arrests, Supreme Court tells Maharashtra govt


NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has asked the Maharashtra government to explain the circumstances leading to the arrest of two girlsShaheen Dadha and Renu Srinivasan over their comments on Facebook on the November 18 shutdown for Bal Thackeray's funeral.

"The Maharashtra government is directed to explain the circumstances under which the two girls - Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Shrinivasan - were arrested for posting comments made by them on Facebook," a bench comprising Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice J Chelameswar said.

The court said there appears to be some hidden notice behind the arrest of two girls for posting comment on social network site opposing Mumbai bandh after the death of a political leader. It said somebody had really blundered in this case.

The bench asked the state government to file its response within four weeks on the public interest litigation filed by a Delhi student, Shreya Singhal.

The bench also made as parties the governments of West Bengal and Puducherry where similar incidents had happened in the recent past.

It also issued notice to the Delhi government along with them and sought their response within four weeks and posted the matter for hearing after six weeks.

Attorney General G E Vahanvati, whose assistance was sought by the court, said,"Please examine section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and I will assist the court on this issue."

The AG also referred to the guidelines which say that cases to be registered under the provision of the IT Act has to be decided by senior police officials of the ranks of DGP for cases pertaining to rural areas and IGP for metros.

"This can't be done by the head of the police stations," the AG said, adding that this was a matter which required the court's consideration.

Meanwhile, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Shreya, sought a direction from the court that no cases be registered across the country unless such complaints are seen and approved by the DGP of the state concerned.

The attorney general told the court that the arrests should never have happened.

He said section 66A of the IT Act should not have been applied at all for the arrest of the girls and welcomed the apex court's intervention saying it will help evolving some guidelines.

Shreya, in her plea, has said that "unless there is judicial sanction as a prerequisite to the setting into motion the criminal law with respect to freedom of speech and expression, the law as it stands is highly susceptible to abuse and for muzzling free speech in the country."

Apart from the arrests of the two Mumbai-based girls, Shreya has also referred to an April 2012 incident, when a chemistry professor from Jadavpur University in West Bengal, Ambikesh Mahapatra, was arrested for posting a cartoon concerning a political figure (West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee) on social networking sites.

She has also referred to the arrest of businessman Ravi Srinivasan in October this year by the Puducherry police for having made allegations on Twitter against a politician from Tamil Nadu as well as the May 2012 arrests of Air India employees V Jaganatharao and Mayank Sharma by the Mumbai Police for posting contents on Facebook and Orkut against a trade union leader and some politicians.

In her plea, she has submitted that "it would amount to little consolation to say that the right to free speech of a citizen will eventually be vindicated at the end of an extended legal proceeding.

"Hence, it is submitted that the protection of the fundamental right to free speech necessitates the existence of a safety walls at the very threshold of setting the criminal law into motion," she has said.

The petitioner has sought issue of guidelines by the apex court, to "reconcile section 41 and 156 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code with Article 19 (1)(a) of the Constitution" and that offences under the Indian penal Code and any other legislation, if they involve the freedom of speech and expression, be treated as a non-cognisable offence for the purposes of Section 41 and Section 156 (1).

Section 41 of the CrPC empowers the police to arrest any person without an order from the magistrate and without a warrant in the event that the offence involved is a cognisable offence. Section 156 (1) empowers the investigation by the police into a cognisable offence without an order of a magistrate.

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