1. Aseem Trivedi, Mumbai, September 2012: Amit Trivedi, free speech activist and political cartoonist, was arrested by Mumbai police for showcasing cartoons on his website and Facebook page. The cartoons used the parliament and national symbols to lampoon corruption in the corridors of power. Trivedi’s cartoons depicted the parliament as a huge commode and showed the Ashoka pillar with salivating wolves instead of lions. The caricatures were widely shared on social media and didn’t go well with the administration.He was charged with sedition under section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code, the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act and Section 66(A) of the IT Act.
2. Palghar girls, Mumbai, November 2012: Renu Srinivasan and Shaheen Dhada were arrested when Shaheen observed the irrelevance of statewide bandh for the late Shiv Sena chief, Bal Thackeray’s funeral. She posted that the shutdown was out of fear, not respect. Renu was arrested for liking the post.They were arrested for “hurting religious sentiments” under section 295(a) of the IPC and section 66(a) of the IT Act. All charges were later quashed by the Bombay High Court.
3. Ambikesh Mahapatra and Subrata Sengupta, Jadavpur, April 2012: Jadavpur University professor Ambikesh Mahapatra and his neighbour Subrata Sengupta were arrested for circulating a cartoon that ridiculed West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The cartoon was adapted from Satyajit Ray’s popular movie Sonar Kella. The widely circulated cartoon was based on a scene in the film in which two criminals dupe a boy into believing that they made someone disappear into thin air. It was a reference to former railways minister Dinesh Trivedi, who was forced out of office by Mamata Banerjee.Ms. Banerjee went on to suggest that the cartoon was actually a coded message for her assassination.
The Calcutta High Court directed the West Bengal government to pay a compensation of Rs 50,000 to the duo for wrongful arrest and harassment.
4. Air India employees, Mumbai, May 2012: The cyber crime cell of Mumbai Police arrested Air India cabin crew members, Mayank Mohan Sharma and K. V. J. Rao, for posting ‘indecent’ jokes about the Prime Minister and other politicians and for insult to the national flag. They acknowledged to sharing information that was already available on the internet and spent 12 days in jail. They were suspended till the charges against them were dropped some months later.
5. Kishtwar youngsters, Jammu and Kashmir, October 2012: Three youngsters from Kishtwar district were arrested and sent to jail for 40 days after they were tagged in an allegedly blasphemous video posted on Facebook. One of them had commented on the post. Kishori Sharma, Bansi Lal and Moti Lal Sharma were charged with desecrating religious symbols and inciting communal hatred by using Information Technology. Police did not have any evidence that they had uploaded the video.
7. Kanwal Bharti, Uttar Pradesh, August 2013: Poet and writer Kanwal Bharti was arrested for posting a status on Facebook that bashed the Uttar Pradesh government’s decision to suspend IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal. Durga Shakti Nagpal was posted in Gautam Budha Nagar (Greater Noida) and was responsible the administrative initiative against illegal sand mining mafia. Bharti expressed his dissent and doubts over the government’s sudden and unnecessary move over a silly excuse. Nagpal had been suspended for ordering the demolition of a (illegal) wall intended to be part of a (illegal) mosque while the government took no action when an old and legally established madrassa was pulled down.The poet was disrespectfully manhandled by the police before the arrest.
8. Rajeesh Kumar, Kerala, Aug 2014: Police arrested CPI(Marxist) worker Rajeesh Kumar for posting “abusive” comments and photos on Facebook about Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Police said in one of the posts, Modi was depicted in a picture shown with an imprint of a shoe on his face. They claimed the posts had abusive comments against Modi and a comment in one post could have sparked communal tensions.
9. Devu Chodankar, Goa, May 2014: Ship-building professional Chodankar was arrested for posting a comment against Modi on Facebook. Police filed an FIR against him under sections 153(A) and 295(A) of the IPC and section 125 of the Representation of the People’s Act and 66(A) of the IT Act.The police complaint described Chodankar’s comment as part of a “larger game plan to promote communal and social disharmony in the state”, but opposition parties saw it as an attempt to muzzle criticism of Modi.
10. Class XI student, Rampur, March 2015: A teenage student of Class 11 was arrested and jailed for posting objectionable comments on Facebook directed to Uttar Pradesh Minister Azam Khan.
The youth was released on bail and the SC sought explanation from UP Police on the circumstances leading to the arrest.
In a groundbreaking verdict the Supreme court has declared the Section 66-A of the Information Technology Act as an unconstitutional, arbitrary, excessive and disproportionate invasion of the Right to Free Speech. However, the court turned down pleas to scrape Sections 69A and 74 which still gives the government the right to take down and ban websites that it might deem a threat to security, sovereignty and integrity of the country.
After a series of bans from food to film the Supreme Court’s decision came as a blessing. This was perhaps one news that could distract the country’s eyeballs from the World Cup fever.