The Supreme Court on Wednesday termed as “prima facie arbitrary” the arrest of BJP’s West Bengal youth wing leader Priyanka Sharma for allegedly publishing a morphed image of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on social media.
A vacation bench of Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Sanjiv Khanna also took exception to the West Bengal government’s delay in keeping Sharma behind the bars despite the court’s Tuesday order for her “immediate release”.
The apex court’s observation came after Sharma’s counsel, senior advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, mentioned that despite the court’s order, Sharma was kept in jail for an extra day.
The court said: “This is not done. First of all, her arrest was arbitrary… if she is not released, consequences shall follow.”
Counsel for the West Bengal government told the court that Sharma has been released at around 9.40 a.m. from the jail on Wednesday. The state government did not release her earlier due to lack of a certified copy of the top court’s order, as per the state jail manual, counsel said.
At this, the court said: “The order was passed in your presence… jail manuals can’t have superintendence over the SC.
“If she is not released, we will take contempt action.”
The apex court had on Tuesday passed direction for Sharma’s immediate release and asked her to tender apology upon her release for posting the meme.
Meanwhile, Sharma’s counsel also informed the court that her brother had found that police had already filed a closure report in the case.
“There was no question of apology… has counsel for state disclosed this earlier,” Kaul asked.
He also told the court that he will file an application on behalf of the petitioner for action against the state government and also modification of the court’s order.
The court said there isn’t any urgency. “We will hear it in the first week of July”, the court said.
According to the court’s schedule published on the website, the matter has been listed in the first week of July.
Sharma was accused of sharing on social media a photo of Banerjee photoshopped on a picture of Bollywood actor Priyanka Chopra from last week’s MET Gala event in New York City.
Walking free after remaining in jail for five days for sharing a meme on West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on social media, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) worker Priyanka Sharma said she was “tortured” in jail and that she would not tender an apology for sharing the meme.
Sharma, who was picked up by the police on Friday, also vowed to fight a court battle to clear her name as she had “done no wrong”.
“They tortured me in jail. The jailor pushed me,” claimed Sharma who complained that the jail staff behaved very rudely with her and did not let her speak to anyone for five days. “Even after I was given bail, they didn’t allow me to talk to anyone,” she said.
Sharma also said that water was a big problem in the jail and that the women’s toilet had no water.
“I will now prepare for my court battle to clear my name and win the case,” she said.
The Supreme Court is set to hear the case again in July when it would be decided if Sharma should go by the West Bengal government’s stand that she tender an apology for sharing the meme on social media.
“I have done no wrong. So why should I apologise,” Sharma said as she questioned why did the police target her when a lot of people had shared the post. “Why are they not arresting the many other people who shared the post,” she asked.
Sharma was arrested on May 10 in Howrah district for allegedly sharing Banerjee’s morphed picture on Facebook.
A complaint was lodged at the Dasnagar Police station against Sharma, a BJP Yuva Morcha leader, for violating community guidelines.