Arrest over FB post: Katju asks Chavan to suspend cops

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Shaheen Dhada
Mumbai, Nov 19: Press Council chairman Justice Markandey Katju has urged Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan to suspend the police personnel who apparently arrested a young woman for protesting against the shutdown here in connection with Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray's funeral yesterday.

In her Facebook status update, Shaheen Dhada had written: "We should remember Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev - two martyrs of India's independence". Renu, a friend of Shaheen, "liked" her post.

After a local Shiv Sena leader lodged a complaint against Shaheen and Renu, the Thane (rural) police arrested them for "inciting violence". However, a Palghar court today granted bail to both the women.

Incidentally, a group of Shiv Sainiks are said to have ransacked Shaheen's uncle's  orthopaedic clinic at Palghar last night.

In a letter to the CM, Katju noted that "a woman in Maharashtra has been arrested for protesting on Facebook against the shut down in Mumbai on the occasion of the death of Mr Bal Thackeray. It is alleged that she has been arrested for allegedly hurting religious sentiments. To my mind it is absurd to say that protesting against a bandh hurts religious sentiments."

The Press Council chairman pointed out that "Under Article 19(1)(a) of our Constitution, freedom of speech is a guaranteed fundamental right. 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."

He requested Chavan to "immediately order the suspension, arrest, chargesheeting and criminal prosecution of the police personnel (however high they may be) who ordered as well as implemented the arrest of that woman, failing which I will deem it that you as Chief Minister are unable to run the state in a democratic manner as envisaged by the Constitution to which you have taken oath, and then the legal consequences will follow."

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