West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has once again drawn criticism for “intolerance” following the arrest of a BJP worker, Priyanka Sharma, on May 11 for posting a morphed photograph of Banerjee on social media.
Sharma, who was subsequently sent for a 14-day judicial custody, has reportedly approached Supreme Court challenging her arrest. She has been charged under Section 500 of the IPC (defamation), and Sections 66A (offensive messages) and the non-bailable 67A (punishment for publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act, etc., in electronic form) of the Information Technology Act. The apex court is likely to hear the case on Tuesday, May 14.
Twenty-five-year-old Sharma had allegedly shared on Facebook an image in which Banerjee's face has been photoshopped onto actor Priyanka Chopra's picture from the MET Gala event in New York.
Netizens including celebrities, politicians and journalists have been criticising Mamata Banerjee government’s move as being “intolerant” and direct “assault” on freedom of speech and expression.
Trinamool Congress leader Vibhas Hazra had filed a complaint at the Dasnagar police station, alleging that the BJP worker intended to insult West Bengal CM, and alongside insulted “the culture of Bengal”. Another BJP leader Amanish Iyer was also taken into custody in response to the complaint.
“#Shame on all the people involved in arresting someone for making this satirical image. #MamataBanerjee continues to be a bully. If anything she looks quite striking in this image. I would consider trying this look during festivals and such,” tweeted actor Siddharth, while sharing the controversial image on his social media handle.
There are several incidents of crackdown on common people who have been critical of Mamata Banerjee and Trinamool Congress government.
Lat year, one person from Tripura was reportedly arrested for allegedly making derogatory remarks on Banerjee. In 2012, one Jadavpur University professor was arrested and later acquitted for allegedly circulating a cartoon involving Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Railway Minister Mukul Roy and former Railway minister Dinesh Trivedi.
Although Section 66A of Information Technology Act was scrapped by the Supreme Court, there are numerous incidents wherein state governments have invoked the forbidden law.
In November 2017, G. Bala, a cartoonist was arrested on charges of defaming Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K.Palanisamy through his cartoon.
Recently, at least 22 people were arrested for posting content on social media under various sections in relation to the Pulwama attack.
Also read: Dreaded Section 66A of IT Act: Supreme Court Issues Notice to Centre