Two girls who were arrested for making a Facebook comment protesting the closure of shops in the wake of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray's death, have been released on bail bonds of Rs 15,000 each.
The duo, one of whom had reportedly updated her Facebook status to read "People like Thackeray are born and die daily and one should not observe a bandh for that" and the other one who 'liked' it, were initially booked under section 295A (hurting the religious sentiment of others) and were reportedly remanded to judicial custody for 14 days, NDTV reported.
The two girls were arrested after a complaint made to the Palghar police station in neighbouring Thane district by a local Sena leader.
A group of Shiv Sainiks attacked and ransacked the girl’s uncle’s orthopaedic clinic at Palghar, even though she withdrew her comment and apologised.
In comments to Firstpost, Pranesh Prakash of the Centre for Internet and Society, said that the arrest was a gross misapplication of the Indian Penal Code, and said that this particular provision had been misused on multiple occasions by the state of Maharashtra.
“What makes this seem ironic, and almost a parodic news report, is the fact that Bal Thackeray probably violated this provision more times than most other politicians, but was only charged under it once or twice”, he said.
The arrest has predictably elicited outrage from across the spectrum. Many took to social media to express their disgust, while NDTV reported that Maharashtra police HQ in Mumbai was very upset with the action taken by the Palghar police.
Press Council of India Chairman Markandey Katju had also called for the immediate release of the girls and wrote to Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan asking him to ensure it.
Pointing out that people were not living under a fascist dictatorship, he said that the act of arrest appeared to be a criminal act since it was a violation under sections of the Indian Penal Code to wrongfully arrest or confine anyone.
The PCI chief said that legal consequences would follow if the Chief Minister failed to take action.