Police to seek legal advice for arrests in online cases

MUMBAI - Stung by widespread criticism over the arrest of two girls for posting comments on Facebook that were critical of the shutdown in Mumbai after the death of the Shiv Sena chief, the state government has directed the police to seek legal opinion before making such arrests.


Nithin Belle

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Published: Sun 25 Nov 2012, 12:16 AM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 12:49 PM

Police in Palghar, a small city about 100km from here, arrested Shaheen Dhada, a 21-year-old girl, for having questioned the forced shutdown of Mumbai after the death of Bal Thackeray, the Sena chief, on Saturday.

Shaheen’s friend, Renu Srinivasan, who ‘liked’ her posting, was also arrested. The two girls were summoned to the police station on Sunday night — an illegal act, as women cannot be called to police stations after sunset — and held for a few hours.

They were arrested the following day, charged under section 66A of the Information Technology act and released on bail.

But the police initially did not take any action against local Sena workers, who vandalised a hospital owned by Shaheen’s uncle.

It was only after the national furore over the arrest of the two girls that the Palghar police began picking up the hooligans who had attacked the hospital. Maharashtra’s largely ineffective and incompetent home minister R R Patil has been widely criticised by other cabinet colleagues for the fiasco in Palghar. Senior ministers reportedly blasted him at a meeting, and also asked him why no action had been taken against the police officials who had arrested the girls.

On Friday, a spokesman of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) — to which Patil belongs — rushed to his defence, pointing out that the home minister had not issued orders to arrest the girls.

Nawab Malik, the spokesman, said the party did not find Shaheen’s posting on Facebook objectionable, but said Patil could not be blamed for the arrest of the girl.

The home ministry has decided that police officers will in the future have to consult the government’s law officers before arresting people accused of offences under the IT Act.


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