Updated: Girls Arrested For Facebook Post Under 66A, Is It Justified?

Thoughts on the news that in Palghar, cops book 21-year-old and her friend on a Facebook post under section 66A

Update: According to NDTV, the girl and her friend were booked under the charges Section 295 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for “deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs. They were later also charged under Section 505 (2) of the IPC for making “statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes”, and the police added Section 66 (A) of the Information Technology Act too on them. The police complaint was made by Bhushan Sankhe, the Palghar pramukh of Shiv Sena. The girls were arrested there after but are out on a bail after paying two bonds of Rs. 15,000 each. Interestingly, there have been no arrests made by the Police on the Sainiks who vandalized the hospital. The entire episode has got support from media as well as Press Council of India chief Markandey Katju. Initially Justice Katju showed his anger via a blog post in which he had demanded immediate release of the girls and later on wrote consecutive emails to the CM of Maharashtra too. The entire episode has led to an intense debate, while the girls are in a state of shock, the city returns to normalcy after witnessing a standstill weekend in Mumbai.

Whoever said that the world is coming to an end by 2012 said it right. It is coming to an end at least in the way we communicate and  express things on social media. Social media is turning into scary media with the opportunists trying to bend it to their desire.

Some time back, there was a debate on why people were arrested in relation to the constant vulgar tweets that were sent to singer Chinmayi Sripada. The arrest was justified by many and to an extent I have also debated that there has to be a clear line drawn between “Freedom Of Speech” and “Hatred Speech” on social media. But who draws the line and when does anyone draw the line?

Later on again we saw the same law of 66(a) ((Section 66-A deals with messages sent via computer or communication devices which may be “grossly offensive,” have “menacing character,” or even cause “annoyance or inconvenience)) being used on a businessman from Puducherry who was arrested for a tweet that he made against Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s son, Karti and could face three years in jail. In April, a Kolkata university professor was arrested for forwarding a cartoon spoof on the West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee.

The trend seems to continue and today morning as I was checking my Facebook timeline which was filled with grief and some protests against the entire happenings of why they love or dislike the Tiger- BalaSaheb Thackeray. I witnessed a link shared that said something like this – In Palghar, cops book 21-year-old for FB post. ((Article Source)) Initially there was some confusion about the report but a latest tweet from NDTV’s Sreenivasan Jain confirms that the incident did happen but the occurrence of the event reported according to the print media, is bit unclear


Why the arrest: The police on Sunday arrested a 21 year old girl who had questioned the rationality of the total shutdown in the city for Thackeray’s funeral on her Facebook account. Another girl was also arrested in the same case since she had “Liked” the post on Facebook. The Facebook account and the post which has been deleted now is reported to have this content according to the MumbaiMirror.com – “people like Thackeray are born and die daily and one should not observe a bandh for at”.

According to the news daily, both the girls were arrested under Section 295 (a) of the IPC (for hurting religious sentiments) and Section 66 (a) of the Information Technology Act, 2000. Interesting thing to be noted in all the charges, Section 66-A of the IT act has been used as the draconian law in all the cases. However according to the tweets by Sreenivasan Jain, the girls were arrested today afternoon but have been granted bail after initially being sent to judicial custody.


After effects: The girl apologized for her mistake but then it was not enough to the more than 2000 (the number seems to be exaggerated also) Shiv Sena supporters who later on attacked and ransacked her uncle’s orthopedic clinic at Palghar taluka of Thane district. The incident happened around 9:30 PM in the night and the hospital has been completely vandalized.

I have a few questions –

1) Agree we should be more alert on what we tweet or post on Facebook or Twitter but then does that mean we can’t speak about what is right or wrong. Does the power of the land decide the law in a democratic country?

2) The girls and the other people were arrested on the basis of 66(a) but what about the people who were wearing the mask of a mob and vandalized a hospital. Why there was no swift action from police on this account or is it justified?

3) Why was only the girl and her family targeted? If you troll the social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook then pretty soon there would be thousands of cases registered under the same sections. Or is there something more to the entire story?

This won’t be the first and the last incident in India and why only India, this is happening all over the globe. Not sure if social media can bring down the world but it certainly will bring forth the right and the wrong in the society. And the time has come for the GOI to look into the laws seriously, we can’t impose age old IT laws for social media!