Mumbai: The police in Maharashtra have come under fire for arresting two girls over a Facebook post on late Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray. Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal told CNN-IBN that the case might have been mishandled by the Maharashtra police and that the government could step in to save the situation. "The Maharashtra police mishandled the law, it's illegal to arrest people like this," Sibal said.
He said sending people booked under Section 66(A) of the IT Act to judicial custody is not in accordance with law and suggested that it could be 'illegal'. Sibal said the law itself says it is a non-bailable offence and if a person is arrested under it, he should be given bail immediately. He said there was a need to educate enforcement agencies on how not to misuse the law and how better it can be enforced.
Activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal tweeted, "Police officers who arrested the two girls in Mumbai shud be immediately dismissed. That's minimum that the govt ought to do.(sic)" Activist Kiran Bedi also said, "The complaint was wrong, Magistrate was wrong, the police were equally wrong."
Earlier on Monday, Press Council of India chief and former Supreme Court judge Justice Markandey Katju wrote to Maharashtra Chief Minister Chavan demanding action against the policemen. In his letter, he called the arrest absurd, wrongful and a criminal act.
He said, "We are living in a democracy, not a fascist dictatorship. I request you 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."
The Mumbai police on Monday arrested a 21-year-old girl from Thane for questioning the total shutdown in the city for Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray's funeral on her Facebook account. Another girl who 'liked' the comment was also arrested. However, both the girls were later released on bail.
The funeral of Bal Thackeray was described by the Mumbai police commissioner as the biggest challenge in the history of the police force. He said it was a big challenge for the police department to maintain peace and law and order as lakhs of Shiv Sena supporters thronged the streets as their leader made his last journey.
The commendable showing of the force though was marred by a controversial move by the police to arrest the 21-year-old girl for posting a comment on Facebook, questioning the shutdown in the city. The girl is believed to have written that there was no need to observe a bandh for Thackeray's funeral.
Enraged by the post on the social networking website, a mob of Shiv Sainiks allegedly vandalised a hospital owned by the girl's uncle in Palghar and filed a complaint with the local police, who arrested the 21-year-old and her friend. The two girls were arrested under sections 505(2) (statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes)a and 66 a of the IT act.
The state Director General of Police (DGP) has directed the Inspector General to begin a probe into the girl's arrest and submit a report soon. Sources in the Home Ministry say they are closely monitoring the case.