The reported arrest of a 21-year-old girl over her Facebook status update questioning the shutdown of Mumbai over Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray's death has drawn flak from former Supreme Court Judge and chairman of Press Council of India Justice Markandey Katju who has written to Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, seeking his active intervention in the matter.
In the letter addressed to Chavan, Justice Katju has written: "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. 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.
Hence if the facts reported are correct, 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, 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."
The 21-year-old girl was allegedly arrested from the town of Palghar along with a friend of hers who had liked the status. This reportedly happened even after the girl withdrew the status and apologised for the same.
The Internet has been abuzz about the arrest of the girl with Thackeray loyalists denouncing the girl's action and others defending her freedom of speech. Unconfirmed reports of a mob of Shiv Sena workers attacking and ransacking the girl's uncle's orthopaedic clinic at Palghar have also come in.