Centre for Internet & Society

The arrest of a 21-year-old girl by Mumbai police for criticizing the shutting down of the city following the death of Bal Thackeray come under fire from netizens.

Arun Dev's article was published in the Times of India on November 20, 2012. Pranesh Prakash is quoted.

Many tweets and Facebook posts popped up soon after the news of her arrest played on TV and social media networks, some even reposting what she first posted on her page.

Pranesh Prakash, programme manager, Centre for Internet and Society, told TOI this case was a clear case of misapplication of Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code. "This provision has been frivolously used numerous times in Maharashtra. Even the banning of James Laine's book, 'Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India', happened this section. The ban was subsequently deemed unlawful by both the Bombay high court and the Supreme Court. Indeed, Section 295A has not been applied in cases where it's more apparent," he said.

On the CIS blog, he commented, "Interestingly, the question arises of the law under which the friend who 'liked' the Facebook status update was arrested. It would take a highly clever lawyer and a highly credulous judge to make 'liking' of a Facebook status update an act capable of being charged with electronically sending ... any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character".

"It is absolutely ridiculous. Regardless of the fact she was given bail, she was sent to 14 days of judicial custody for a mere comment. We have allowed our social media to be free and open but we have laws which are ancient," said Lawrence Liang, a lawyer working on media laws with the Alternative Law Forum in Bangalore. "Such cases don't stand a chance in a court of law. We need procedural safeguards which will ensure cases which are not relevant are not be allowed to be filed," he added.

The open letter to the chief minister of the Maharashtra by Justice Katju, Chairman, Press Council of India, and former Judge, Supreme Court of India too was widely circulated on social media. Some posted this excerpt: "We are living in a democracy, not a fascist dictatorship. In fact this arrest itself appears to be a criminal act since under sections 341 and 342 it is a crime to wrongfully arrest or wrongfully confine someone who has committed no crime."