The Bombay high court on Monday sought to know from the Maharashtra government what penal action has been taken against the police personnel who arrested two Palghar girls in November for a Facebook post expressing displeasure at the Mumbai shutdown that followed Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s death.
Acting on a public interest litigation filed by former journalist Ketan Tirodkar, a division bench of justices Abhay Oka and Ashok Bhangale directed assistant public prosecutor Viththal Konde-Deshmukh to take instructions from the state and make a statement as to what action has been taken against the erring cops. The bench posted the PIL for further hearing on February 12 after Konde-Deshmukh sought time.
The court was hearing the petition seeking penal action against the police officers who had wrongfully arrested Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Srinivasan for criticising on Facebook the bandh following Thackeray’s death.
Tirodkar contended that the inspector general of Konkan Range has conducted an enquiry into the entire episode that was followed by nationwide outrage, and has submitted his report to the director general of police on November 25. However no action has so far been taken against the personnel because of differing views of chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and home minister RR Patil, according to him.
“The two top functionaries of the state are locked in a battle of wits — the chief minister favouring action and the home minister against it,” states Tirodkar’s public interest litigation.
Both Dhada and Srinivasan were detained late on November 18, the day Thackeray was cremated, and arrested the next day. Initially, they were charged under section 295 (A) of the Indian Penal Code for deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.
Ultimately, they were booked under section 66A of the Information Technology Act 2002 for sending false and offensive messages through communication services.
However, the nationwide outrage over their arrest compelled the state to suspend two cops and drop the case against the girls. Accordingly, on December 19, the local police submitted a closure report in a local court at Palghar stating no case was made out against them.