SC Censures WB Govt Over Delay in Release of BJYM Worker
The Supreme Court on Wednesday, 15 May, censured the West Bengal government over delay in the release of BJP Youth Wing Convenor Priyanka Sharma, who was arrested for sharing a morphed image of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
The apex court said the arrest of the BJP activist for allegedly posting morphed image of Banerjee was "prima facie arbitrary." Sharma's advocate mentioned before the Supreme Court that she had not been released, to which the state government's counsel said that she was "released at 9:40 am on Wednesday."
"Why was she not released immediately?" retorted the apex court. Sharma's counsel also said that before her release, she was asked to sign an apology letter prepared by the police, which said that she "will not post this (the meme) again."
On Tuesday, within minutes of its initial order, the Supreme Court had waived the condition of apology and ordered Sharma’s immediate release. Though the condition was waived, the Supreme Court reportedly still wanted her to apologise at the “time of release,” the order stated.
Earlier, the SC bench comprising Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Sanjiv Khanna had asked Sharma to tender a written apology to the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on being released.
SC had also agreed to hear larger issues of violation of free speech after the holidays are over. The Court had also issued a notice to the West Bengal government seeking its response over the way Sharma was taken into custody.
Meanwhile, the Cyber Cell submitted a closure report in the CJM court on 13 May, seeking to close the case against Sharma. However, since her lawyers were not aware of this, it had to be settled in the apex court, reported News18.
Thank the SC for Releasing Priyanka: Poonam Mahajan
Addressing a press conference after Sharma was granted bail, BJP’s Poonam Mahajan held a press conference and hit out at Mamata Banerjee for throttling freedom of speech in West Bengal. Calling Banerjee ‘Hitler Didi’, Mahajan said that she is using power for her own “political gain.”
She also “thanked” the Supreme Court for Sharma’s immediate release but said that the “direction of apology sends out a wrong message.”
What is The Matter?
Priyanka Sharma, who is the Howrah District Club Convenor for BJYM, was arrested for sharing a morphed picture of Mamata Banerjee on her Facebook page on 9 May. The meme had an image of Banerjee morphed on Priyanka Chopra’s look from the Met Gala, held on 6 May.
A complaint was filed against Sharma at the Dasnagar police station in Howrah and she was sent to custody for 14 days.
Netizens had taken to Twitter to call out Mamata Banerjee and the West Bengal government for the incident, calling it hypocrisy and an attack on freedom of speech.
Reacting to the incident, Sharma’s mother spoke to ANI and said that the arrest was made due to her association with the BJP.
Moreover, BJP's Youth Wing chief in Kolkata, Om Prakash Singh, had said the action against Sharma was ‘shameful’.
"Social media is a place where everybody wants the freedom to express. It is shameful that Mamata Banerjee is curbing freedom on that platform," he told NDTV.
This is not the first time that the Mamata Banerjee government has been accused of curbing freedom of speech. Significantly, right after the Trinamool came to power in 2011, a Jadavpur University Professor Ambikesh Mahapatra was jailed for sharing a cartoon on TMC.
Recently, the West Bengal government also came under criticism when a movie which was critical of Trinamool Congress policies was mysteriously taken off screens a few days after its release. The movie was allowed to re-release after a Supreme Court order.
(With inputs from ANI and NDTV)