2013 witnesses more arrests over Facebook posts. According to NDTV, Sanjay Chowdhary a resident of Dayalbagh, an Agra suburb was arrested late on Monday. The arrest has been made due to his Facebook posts that are being considered as “communal and inflammatory” by the local police. The posts that have been made by Sanjay were about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal and Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Sanjay is a civil engineer and was arrested on “specific information” about certain posts that have been deleted by now. Sanjay has been booked under Section 153 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the famous Section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act ((Section 153 A deals with “promoting enmity between groups” and “acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony”. 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)). However it is not clear who informed the police about the posts but the police has made it clear that the arrests should not be connected to any political angle. The arrests have been made only to prevent communal flare-up added Subhash Chandra Dubey, a senior policeman.
Once again we are back to the never ending debate on freedom of speech vs. hate speech. January saw the arrest of a college student in Kolkata for sharing cartoons of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on his Facebook account. Ram, who was arrested commented that he had been targeted because of his political background and the cartoon circulation is just a cover up. Ram is an activist of CPI(M) and students wing SFI.
2012 was not an exception and we witnessed several cases that were also initiated on Facebook posts. The Palghar case was the most controversial one when the local police had booked two girls on their Facebook activity. The case not only questioned the morals of the police but also opened discussion about Section 66 A. Later on the girls were released with cases being dropped.
However, the present arrest has been made on similar grounds and it would be interesting to see how the case shapes up in the coming days. We would update the post as in we get some more details on it. But it is an irony that in a republic nation like India, people can make hate speech against Kashmir’s first girls’ band, Pragaash and not get arrested while on the other side people are picked up in no time by the same administration when they choose to express thoughts about influential people on Facebook.