They were held on charge of posting offensive content on social networking sites

Six months after being jailed and let out on bail for allegedly posting offensive content on social networking sites, K.V. Jaganatharao and Mayank Sharma have been recalled for duty by Air India.

The two, who work as in-flight crew, got a pleasant surprise when the airline, in a letter on Monday, asked them to report for duty on Tuesday morning.

After their arrest on May 11 and release on bail on May 22, both were suspended for that period and were eligible only for salaries without allowances. There was no question of flying as their passports were impounded by the police. On October 25, they approached the Bombay High Court to get back the passports.

Mr. Sharma said complaints from a member of a closed group of Air India cabin crew members on Facebook and Orkut should not have been entertained. The first complainantto approach a senior police officer in July last, trade union leader Kiran Pawaskar, was not a member of the closed group and he was not part of the discussions on it, Mr. Sharma contended.

Both the airline employees demanded that the charges against them, including those under the Information Technology Act, apart from the Indian Penal Code, be dropped.

While the police passed on the complaint to the cyber police station in Bandra, it was only on March 29, 2012 that a first information report was filed and the two were arrested on May 11. The complainant in this case was Sagar Karnik, who works for Air India and was a member of the closed group of about 1,500 cabin crew members. Mr. Karnik claimed that the discussion was targeting political leaders in abusive terms and it “was mature on his part to bring it to the attention of judicial authorities.”

Asked why a private discussion in a closed group was leaked, Mr. Karnik defended his action, saying that even domestic violence happened within the four walls of a house and yet people complained about it to the outside world in the interests of justice.

Meanwhile, the former Chief Information Commissioner, Shailesh Gandhi, told The Hindu that while the Facebook post of Shaheen Dhada on Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray had become a rallying point for citizens to defend their fundamental right of freedom of expression under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution, people were ignoring the responsibilities of the magistrate.

Mr. Gandhi, in a statement, said, “What is the role of the magistrate when a person is produced before him? The only purpose for this requirement in the Criminal Procedure Code is to ensure that a mind is applied judiciously before a remand or bail is given.”

The magistrate who examined the case could have seen the gross absurdity of the charge. The requirement of producing all arrested persons within 24 hours puts the responsibility on the magistrate to decide whether a prima facie case existed for giving a remand or bail. If it appeared that no reasonable case existed, the magistrate must refuse to allow any further detention. Since this did not happen, it led to unnecessary harassment and piling up of cases. A magistrate must apply his mind to the matter and take responsibility, Mr. Gandhi said.

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