Is net-usage a crime? SC asks states to explain FB arrests

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New Delhi, Nov 30: Supreme Court of India has taken the recent arrests of netizens seriously. The apex court has issued notices to the Centre, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Delhi and Puducherry over IT Act on Friday, Nov 30.

The Supreme Court has asked the Maharashtra and West Bengal governments to explain why people in those states have been arrested for their posts on Facebook. Supreme Court's direction came in the wake of hearing of a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking to scrap Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Shaheen

The PIL was filed by Shreya Singhal, a student of law in Delhi University, after netizens were arrested for allegedly violating the IT Act by posting comments critical of political leaders on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

The Supreme Court while admitting the PIL on Thursday expressed its anger over the arrests. "The way the little children were arrested, it outraged the sentiments of the country. The way these things had been taking place needs some consideration so that in future it does not take place," said the Chief Justice of India, Altamas Kabir.

Recently, two Palghar-based girls were arrested for their Facebook comment on Mumbai bandh following the death of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray. Shaheen Dhada had posted a comment on Facebook questioning Mumbai's shutdown on Bal Thackeray's funeral and her friend Rinu Srinivasan had liked it. Hence, the duo were arrested by cops and later released on bail. "People like Thackeray are born and die daily and one should not observe a bandh for that," Dhada had reportedly written on her Facebook wall.

Dhada's friend Rinu "liked" her comment and landed in the legal trouble. The duo were reportedly booked under Section 295(a) of the IPC (for hurting religious sentiments) and Section 64(A) of the Information Technology Act, 2000. They were later granted bail on surety of Rs 15,000 each. Shaheen, it was said, had withdrawn her comment and apologised before the vandalism took place.

On Wednesday, Sunil Vishwakarma, 19-year-old boy from Palghar at Thane district in Maharashtra, was detained on suspicion of posting an "objectionable" Facebook comment against MNS chief Raj Thackeray. However, he was let off after police found that a "fake account" was used by some persons in the teenager's name.

In April, a professor in West Bengal, Ambikesh Mahapatra, was arrested for allegedly posting cartoon on Facebook ridiculing West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

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