Defending the arrest of a 19-year-old boy for his alleged Facebook comments against Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan, the Uttar Pradesh government on Friday said it could demonstrate in the Supreme Court that the remarks were both “defamatory and inflammatory.”
A combative State government told a Bench led by Justice J. Chelameswar that the boy, Vicky Khan from Bareilly district, was already out on bail and was free to seek appropriate legal remedy.
“I can demonstrate that he made defamatory and inflammatory remarks,” Gaurav Bhatia, Additional Advocate-General, Uttar Pradesh, submitted. This prompted the court to direct the State to file a written affidavit in four weeks explaining the circumstances leading to the arrest. The State informed the court that an FIR was registered under various offences including Sections 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, etc) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
The hearing came on a plea by law student Shreya Singhal on Thursday, urging the apex court to enquire into the circumstances which led to the boy’s arrest.
Ms. Singhal’s petition leads a batch challenging the validity of Section 66A of the 2000 Act, which gives powers to arrest a person on the grounds of “annoyance” caused by his social media comment.
Vicky’s arrest comes even though the Supreme Court has reserved judgment on the petitions.
The arrest had led to doubts being raised about the Centre’s assurances in the apex court on freedom of expression.
“The arrest was sheer abuse of power in breach of the Central advisory to all States. What we have always been apprehensive of has happened,” senior advocate Soli Sorabjee, appearing for Ms. Singhal, submitted.