Mumbai: Two girls were arrested over their Facebook post questioning the shutdown in the city for Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray's funeral with the comment also leading to an attack on the clinic of an uncle of one of them by Sena activists.
The arrests in neighbouring Thane on Sunday sparked an outrage with Press Council of India chief Markandey Katju today demanding "immediate" action against police personnel involved. Congress said a police case against the girls was "unfortunate" and hoped Maharashtra government would take remedial measures.
The two girls--Shaheen Dhada and Renu--were sent to 14-day judicial custody by a court before which they were produced today but were granted bail within hours after they furnished personal bonds, police said. Dhada was arrested after she posted comments on the social networking site opposing the shutdown in Mumbai. 86-year-old Thackeray was cremated on Sunday.
She allegedly said that one should not observe bandh for Thackeray's funeral. "We should remember Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev," the post said.
Dhada's friend Renu was arrested for 'liking' the post. "Police arrested both of them under section 505(2) (statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes). Today, they were granted bail," their advocate Sudhir Gupta said.
The duo was arrested following a police complaint lodged by a local Sena leader. After the comment was posted, a mob of nearly 40 Shiv Sainiks allegedly barged into Dhada's uncles's orthopaedic hospital at Palghar and vandalised the place on Sunday.
However, no arrests were made in connection with the attack.
In an e-mail to the Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, Katju warned of "legal consequences" if he failed to take action against the police personnel concerned. With the Aseem Trivedi episode apparently on the back of their mind, Maharashtra Police's IG(Law and Order) Deven Bharti said a probe has been ordered into whether the contents of the Facebook post constituted an offence and even if the offence was registered why were the arrests made.
Bowing to public pressure and criticism from the court, the Maharashtra government last month decided to drop sedition charge against cartoonist Aseem Trivedi for allegedly insulting national symbols.
"Filing a case against the girls is unfortunate and I hope Maharashtra government will correct it," Congress spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit said in Delhi. He, however, said a comment or two a couple of days later could have been alright since it was a "sensitive time" on the day of Thackeray's funeral.
Dikshit, at the same time, disapproved of the attack by the Sena activists.
Sudhir Gupta said the Facebook post at no place contains anything that insults anybody's religious feelings. "If you see the entire post, it nowhere insults anybody's religious feelings," he added. Deven Bharti said the police probe will be conducted by Special IG of Konkan range Sukhwinder Singh.
"We have ordered an inquiry....if any further action needs to be taken the probe team will decide and send a report. On this report we will act," he added.
"There were two major issues. We have asked him(Singh) to inquire whatever has been written, whether it qualifies for an offence. Second, even if the offence is registered, why the arrests were made, and under which circumstances were the arrests made," he said.
Dr Abdul Yusuf Dhada, whose hospital was ransacked, said he has suffered heavy financial losses. With the police coming under attack, Investigating Officer Shrikant Pingle said anybody can comment on Facebook. "But one should make good comments which doesn't hurt others' sentiments," he added.
Swamy condemns arrest of girls
Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy condemned the arrest of two girls over their
Facebook posts questioning the shutdown in the city for Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray's funeral.
"It is reckless disregard of the Constitution and the fundamental rights by Maharashtra administration to invoke the IPC section 505(2)," he said in a statement.
The section 505(2) deals with statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes.
"I demand that the criminal case be withdrawn and the Chief Minister offer his apologies to the young girl," Swamy said.