New Delhi: Press Council of India chief Markandey Katju has written to Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, demanding action against the cops who arrested two young women in Mumbai for protesting the shutdown in the city on Bal Thackeray's death on social networking site Facebook. Mr Katju wrote two letters to Mr Chavan, the second triggered after he did not get a response on the first.
Here is the full text of the two letters:
I am forwarding an email I have received stating that a woman in Maharashtra has been arrested for protesting on Facebook against the shutdown in Mumbai on the occasion of the death of Mr. Bal Thackeray. It is alleged that she has been arrested for allegedly hurting religious sentiments. To my mind it is absurd to say that protesting against a bandh hurts religious sentiments. Under Article 19(1)(a) of our Constitution, freedom of speech is a 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. Hence, if the facts reported are correct, I request you to immediately order the suspension, arrest, chargesheeting and criminal prosecution of the police personnel (however high they may be) who ordered as well as implemented the arrest of that woman, failing which I will deem it that you as Chief Minister are unable to run the state in a democratic manner as envisaged by the Constitution to which you have taken oath, and then the legal consequences will follow.
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.
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?
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 Facebook, and what action you have taken against the delinquent policemen and others involved in this high-handedness and blatant misuse of state machinery.