The Supreme Court on Friday sought an explanation from Uttar Pradesh government for arresting a Dalit scholar for allegedly writing a post on Facebook in support of suspended IAS officer Durga Sakthi Nagpal.
A bench headed by Justice H.L. Gokhale, issued notice to the state government asking them to file their response for arresting writer Kanwal Bharti, in violation of its order.
Mr. Bharti, author of various books dealing with problems faced by Dalits, was granted bail in the matter.
The apex court had earlier on May 16 said that the person allegedly posting objectionable comments on social networking sites cannot be arrested by the police without getting prior permission from senior officers.
The court had directed the state government to strictly comply with the Centre’s advisory which had said that a person should not be arrested without taking permission from police officials of the rank of IGP or DCP or SP level.
In view of public outrage over people being arrested for making comments or liking posts on Facebook, Centre had on January 9 issued advisory to all states and Union Territories asking them not to arrest a person in such cases without prior approval of a senior police officer.
The apex court had restrained police while hearing an application seeking its direction to the authorities not to take action for posting allegedly objectionable comments during the pendency of a case before it pertaining to constitutional validity of section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act.
The section states that any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or communication device, any information that was grossly offensive or has a menacing character could be punished with imprisonment for a maximum term of three years, besides imposition of appropriate fine.
The application was also filed in the wake of a Hyderabad-based woman activist being arrested for her Facebook post in which certain “objectionable” comments were made against Tamil Nadu Governor K. Rosaiah and Congress MLA Amanchi Krishna Mohan. After filing of the petition, she was released by a district court.
Jaya Vindhayal, the state general secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), was arrested on May 12 under section 66A of the IT Act for the “objectionable” post.
The application was filed by law student Shreya Singhal, whose plea for amending Section 66A is pending in the apex court.
She sought an urgent hearing in the case, saying the police is taking action in such matters even though a PIL challenging validity of the section is pending.
Ms. Singhal had filed the PIL after two girls —Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Shrinivasan — were arrested in Palghar in Thane district under section 66A of IT Act after one of them posted a comment against the shut down in Mumbai following Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray’s death and the other ‘liked’ it.
On November 30, 2012, the apex court had sought response from the Centre on the amendment and misuse of section 66A of IT Act and had also directed the Maharashtra government to explain the circumstances under which they were arrested.