NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted bail to the arrested Priyanka Sharma, a college student and a member of BJP’s youth wing in West Bengal for forwarding a meme of Mamata Banerjee in social media.
Sharma, was arrested by West Bengal police for allegedly sharing a morphed photo of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee portrayed in the wardrobe of Priyanka Chopra, which the actress wore at Met Gala.
A vacation bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and Sanjiv Khanna said, “Priyanka Sharma is ordered to be released on bail immediately. Upon her release, she shall tender an apology.”
Senior advocate N K Kaul appearing for Sharma opposed the apology and said, “Apology to meme would have a chilling effect on freedom of speech.”
Countering Kaul, Justice Banerjee said, “Freedom of speech is non-negotiable. But that freedom ends when it infringes on another's fundamental rights.”
Justice Khanna further said, “If somebody is hurt, let an apology come. By saying sorry, you don't come down. She is a member of the political party. Elections are going on. At this stage, we are not on the aspect of criminal law. We are asking for an apology because it is election time.”
Minutes after the order was passed, the bench called back Sharma's lawyer and clarified that apology is not a condition of her bail as stated in the earlier order.
The court also issued notice to West Bengal government seeking its response on whether a political leader can be prosecuted for sharing an alleged objectionable post which is a kind political satire and slated the hearing for July.
Sharma was charged under IPC Section 500 (defamation), and sections 66A (offensive content) and 67A (distributing sexually explicit material) of the Information and Technology (IT) Act.
After Sharma shared the picture on Facebook, a Trinamool Congress leader filed a complaint with the West Bengal police’s cyber cell. The image has now been deleted from Facebook.
On Saturday, Sharma was picked up from her residence in North Kolkata by the cyber cell of Kolkata police. The girl was produced in the local chief judicial magistrate court in Kolkata and was remanded for five days under police custody.