Mumbai: Within hours after Press Council of India (PCI) chief Markandey Katju wrote to Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan demanding “immediate” action against police personnel for reportedly arresting the two girls who had questioned the total shutdown in the city for Bal Thackeray's funeral on networking site Facebook, the PCI chief once again slammed the Maharashtra chief minister for taking the matter in a ‘cavalier manner’ by merely forwarding his email to one of the officials who did not even respond to his email.
The PCI chief wrote second email to Prithviraj Chavan saying, “You have not replied to my email but only forwarded it to someone called Amitabh Rajan, whom I do not know, and who has not had the courtesy to respond to me. Please realize that the matter is much too serious to be taken in this cavalier manner, because the principle of liberty is at stake. The entire nation wants to know what action you have taken. I would therefore request you to immediately let me know what you are doing in this matter.”
Katju raised a question before Maharashtra chief minister, “Are we living in a democracy or not? How can a person be arrested for objecting to the shutdown in Mumbai on Thackeray's death? Article 21 of the Constitution, to uphold which you have taken an oath, states that no one can be deprived of his life or liberty except in accordance with law. Does Article 21 not exist in Maharashtra? Does freedom of speech guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) also not exist in your state?”
Justice Katju warned the chief minister not to stay silent on the issue and act with utmost sincerity. He further writes, "Please realize that silence is not an option for you in the matter. The entire nation is furious at this apparently illegal arrest. Therefore I once again request you to tell me, and through me the entire nation, why this arrest of a woman was made in Mumbai just for putting up an apparently innocuous material on the Facebook, and what action you have taken against the delinquent policemen and others involved in this high handedness and blatant misuse of state machinery."
Earlier, in an e-mail to the Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, he had warned of “legal consequences” if the chief minister failed to act.
“I will deem it that you as CM are unable to run the state in a democratic manner as envisaged by the Constitution to which you have taken oath and then legal consequences will follow,” Katju said.
He demanded that Chavan immediately order suspension, arrest, chargesheeting and criminal prosecution of the police personnel responsible for arresting the women allegedly on the ground of hurting sentiments.
“To my mind it is absurd to say that protesting against the bandh hurts religious sentiments. Under Article 19 of our Constitution, freedom of speech is 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,” he said.
The arrest has also opened a can of worms with netizens calling the move a “social media hijack by the powerful and the fundamentalists”.
Social media was abuzz with tweets and posts about the arrest, with most referring to the arrest as yet another move to curb freedom of speech on the Internet. (with PTI inputs)