Mamata Meme Row: Supreme Court Says Arrest Of Activist Prima Facie Arbitrary
The Supreme Court termed as "prima facie arbitrary" the arrest of Bharatiya Janata Party's youth wing leader for posting morphed image of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on social media and pulled up the West Bengal government for the delay in releasing her.
A vacation bench comprising Justices Indira Banerjee and Sanjiv Khanna was informed by the counsel of activist Priyanka Sharma's brother that she was not released from jail on Tuesday despite the apex court's order granting her bail and ordering her immediate release.
However, the counsel for West Bengal government informed the bench that she has been released from jail at 9:40 a.m. "Why 9:40 a.m. today? The order was passed in your presence," the bench told the state counsel.
When the state's counsel referred to the jail manual, the bench shot back, "Jail manual can't have precedence over an order of the Supreme Court.”
No. This is not done. First of all the arrest was prima facie arbitrary.Supreme Court Bench
Senior advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, appearing for Priyanka's brother Rajib Sharma who filed the plea in the apex court, told the bench that despite the apex court's Tuesday order granting her bail, she had to spend another night behind the bars.
Kaul told the bench that jail authorities Tuesday told them that they have to either bring certified copies of the apex court's order or approach the court of the chief judicial magistrate concerned for her release.
"If she is not released, the consequences will follow," the bench said and warned it will issue contempt to officials concerned if Sharma was not released from jail immediately.”
"She should be released from jail within half an hour," the bench said. The bench asked Kaul to get instructions whether she has been released from jail or not. After a few minutes Kaul informed the bench that Sharma has been released from jail today.
Kaul told the court that they have moved a separate application, in which they have said that though the closure report in the case was filed in the trial court on May 13, the apex court was not informed during yesterday's hearing.
"If the Supreme Court was informed yesterday that the closure report has been filed in the trial court, then the apex court might not have asked her to apologise," Kaul said.
The apex court had Tuesday granted bail to Sharma and asked to apologise for posting the morphed image of Banerjee. During the hearing on Wednesday, Kaul said the counsel for West Bengal was present in the apex court during yesterday's hearing but did not apprise the court about the closure report.
Sharma was arrested on May 10 by the police under section 500 (defamation) of the IPC and under other provisions of the Information Technology Act on a complaint of a local Trinamool Congress leader Vibhas Hazra. She was sent to 14-day judicial custody by a trial court there.
The apex court, which initially said Sharma's apology will be a bail condition, later clarified that it will not be a condition for bail but she should apologise for sharing the post at the time of her release.
The court had also sought response from West Bengal government on whether a person can be arrested for sharing a post or meme on social media and posted the matter for further hearing after the summer vacation.
Sharma had allegedly shared on Facebook the photo in which Banerjee's face has been photo-shopped on to actor Priyanka Chopra's picture from the MET Gala event in New York. Her arrest was followed by protests from the BJP and other social media users.