Responding to public outrage, Maharashtra director general of police, Sanjeev Dayal, on Monday ordered an inquiry into the arrests of two young women, Shaheen Dhadha and Rainu Shrinivasan, who criticised the virtual shutdown in the city on Facebook after Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s death.
The two youngsters are from Palghar in Thane district, around 87 km north of Mumbai.
“Sukhwinder Singh, inspector general of police (Konkan Range), will conduct the inquiry and submit a report to me by Saturday,” Dayal said.
Justice Markendey Katju, chairman of Press Council of India, on Monday asked Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan to suspend, arrest, charge-sheet and prosecute the police personnel behind the arrests.
“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,” Katju said in an email to Chavan.
On Monday night, he sent out another email to Chavan saying: “You have not replied to my email but only forwarded it to someone called Amitabh Rajan (additional chief secretary, home), whom I don’t know, and who has not had the courtesy to respond to me.”
Chavan, who has asked IG Singh, to submit a report in two days, said he had not read Katju’s letter. “I will take a call after studying the matter and discussing it with bureaucrats and police officers,” he said.
According to Katju, the arrests themselves appear to be “a criminal act” as under sections 341 and 342, it is a crime to wrongfully arrest or wrongfully confine someone who has committed no crime.
Sudhir Gupta, 21-year-old Dhadha’s advocate, claims that a Supreme Court ruling this year has directed the police not to make arrests in cases involving offences with punishment less than seven years unless it is absolutely essential to investigation.
“I don’t think arrests were necessary in this case. And they arrested such young girls with no political inclinations,” Gupta said, adding that Dhadha and Shrinivasan have been asked to visit Palghar police station every Wednesday, until the charge-sheet is filed in the case.
“Dhadha told us that she was irritated because of the bandh so she posted the comment on Facebook. She apologised to the complainant, Palghar city Shiv Sena president Bhushan Sankhe and removed the post from her profile,” said S Pingle, senior inspector, Palghar police station.