Justice Katju slams CM for arrest of Mumbai women over FB post

Press Council of India chairman Justice Markandey Katju yesterday wrote to Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan demanding "immediate" action against police personnel who arrested two women in Mumbai for a posting note against the virtual shutdown of the city in the wake of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray's death on Saturday.

Katju went so far as to warn Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan of "legal consequences" if he failed to act.

Shaheen Dhada had written in her Facebook status update, "Respect is earned, not given and definitely not forced. Today Mumbai shuts down due to fear and not due to respect." Renu, a friend of Shaheen, "liked" her post.

A local Shiv Sena leader filed a police complaint, whereupon the two young women were arrested by the Thane Rural Police at 10.30 am for ''inciting violence'' and ordered by a court to serve 14 days in jail. They were freed hours later on bail bonds of Rs15,000 each.

The two were charged under Section 295 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for "deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs".

They were later also charged under Section 505 (2) of the IPC for making "statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes", and the police added Section 66 (A) of the Information Technology Act, which has been severely criticised for being authoritarian and stifling freedom of expression.