File photo of Mamata Banerjee | PTI
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New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday granted bail to a BJP activist arrested for allegedly posting a morphed image of Mamata Banerjee on social media and asked her to apologise, observing that freedom of speech ends when it infringes upon others’ rights.

A vacation bench comprising justices Indira Banerjee and Sanjiv Khanna said Priyanka Sharma, a BJP Yuva Morcha leader, will apologise in writing upon her release from jail for allegedly posting the morphed picture of the West Bengal Chief Minister.

During the hearing, the bench observed that though freedom of speech is non-negotiable “your freedom of speech ends when it infringes upon others’ rights”.

The bench observed that since Sharma is a member of a political party, the insinuation of posting such a picture will be different from those shared by common people.

Sharma was arrested on May 10 by the West Bengal Police under section 500 (defamation) of the IPC and under other provisions of the Information Technology Act on the complaint of a local Trinamool Congress leader Vibhas Hazra.

In the previous hearing, senior advocate N K Kaul, appearing for Sharma, said the BJP activist had been forced to move the apex court as there was a complete strike in local courts till May 14 in Howrah and moreover, she had been remanded in 14 day judicial custody by a Howrah local court on May 11.

Sharma had allegedly shared on Facebook the photo in which Banerjee’s face has been photoshopped on to actor Priyanka Chopra’s picture from the MET Gala event in New York.

Her arrest was followed by protests from the BJP and other social media users.

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  1. Ms Priyanka Sharma is one in a million. Could reach the hallowed portals of the apex court, secure substantive relief even during vacations. What of the average, often impecunious, citizen who faces the wrath of a state administration, especially in a place like Chhatisgarh which the national media covers lightly. With respect, what should have troubled the Justices is not so much the nature of the meme, where the dress might offend the sensitivities of some, the hairdo is good for a laugh, but the horrifying thought that an Indian citizen could be sent to jail for a fortnight for what I personally would rate no worse than a silly prank, That the lady was a BJP functionary is besides the point. The Court is perfectly aware of what living conditions in jails are, how easy it would be for the authorities to have mistreated the inmate to any extent. A written apology is fine, the two women are far apart in age to have been daughter and mother. What one would have been happy to see in the judgment were binding observations – not well meaning platitudes in the form of orbiter dicta – that would have raised the bar for autocratic leaders using personal pique to set the coercive apparatus of the state on an ordinary citizen.


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