Let's Build a Responsible Cyber Society



 The Palghar Incident

"Freedom on the Net" is an election issue in next national elections

The death of Bala Saheb Thakre had been seen as an end of an era of militant politics in Maharashtra. Not withstanding the popularity of Mr Thakre amongst the local population, rest of India always feared the militant nature of his party cadres. During the funeral one of the popular discussion points on TV was how Mr Udhav Thakre had followed a more sober line of thinking as compared to Raj Thakre and how Shivasena was a politically more acceptable party under his leadership.

Things however took a U turn next day with Shivasena cadres in Palghar, a small place in Thane district ransacked a small hospital and police arrested two 21 year old girls, one for allegedly posting a view on the FaceBook that there should be no "Bundh" because of Mr Thakre's death and the other "liked" the post. The girls were presented before a Magistrate who sent them on 14 days Judicial custody but offered bail which was used to free the arrested persons. The attackers who ransacked the hospital of the Uncle of one of these girls were not arrested.

This whole episode which has followed the case of Aseem Trivedi being arrested for displaying a cartoon on a website critical of corruption, Ravi Srinivasan arrested for a tweet on Karti Chidambaram has created a bizarre situation in India where online activity has been punished with lot more severity than an offline activity of comparable dimensions. More aptly, things which are not an offence offline have been treated as offence online.

How can a Cartoon be considered as "Sedition"?, How can an opposition to a bundh be dubbed "Hurting the religious sentiments"? and even if so how can the acts be considered serious enough to register and FIR and commit people to arrest and Judicial Custody is difficult to understand in logical thinking.

In trying to find a logical explanation to the act of the Police in these incidents, people have tried to find fault with  ITA 2008 and in particular Section 66A. There are naturally demands for repealment of the section and presently a PIL is also pending in Madurai Court in this respect.

However, in my opinion, while Section 66A of ITA 2008 has been apparently used as an excuse for action by the Police, it is absurd to think that these arrests are justified under this section. The section was meant for addressing malicious misuse of e-mails and SMS/MMS messages to prevent Cyber Stalking, Cyber Bullying, Phishing etc and was not meant to address issues of defamation or Sedition or other IPC crimes alleged to have been committed online. Such offences have to be tried under IPC using electronic evidence and should not be tried under Section 66A.

The only logical explanation to all these incidents is that some members of the Police at least in Maharashtra have turned themselves into Goonda elements and are acting on their own whims and fancies. There is no legal base for their action and their action is completely illegal. Since their actions cannot be upheld as legal, the Policemen cannot be given any protection to which they are otherwise entitled when they attend the call of duty.

I donot also accept the view that the Police are ignorant of ITA 2008 and have made a mistake and hence this can be corrected by better awareness of ITA 2008 at lower levels of Police.  Police appear to be fully aware of what they were doing, they had joined hands with the Shivasena workers and acting illegally against the general population. Such policemen need to be immediately dismissed from service, arrested and tried for subverting the law and order system which is an "Anti national activity".

The ball is now in the court of the Chief Minister of Maharashtra who has to either support the Shivasena view and go soft or take the view that the policemen have committed an offence and put them on trial. Since this is unlikely to take place, the only hope is for the Mumbai High Court to take  suo moto action in recognizing the illegal activity of the police and initiate action.

From the perspective of ITA 2008 and the need to repeal Section 66A, I feel that unless there is a change in the attitude of the Police, it will be difficult to prevent such atrocities even if Section 66A is repealed.  IPC has given the police enough powers which can be applied even if an offence is committed with an electronic document and hence we cannot prevent such incidents in future also.

What perhaps would help is an addition to ITA 2008 of an "Immunity Section" which clearly specifies that "Offensive sections of ITA 2008 shall be applicable only for adverse impact caused on an person or property in electronic form and not for causing damage to physical property or person. Damages to physical property or person should be tried only under IPC". In the process, we may dilute the act and to avoid such dilution we may have to make several other consequential changes to sections such as Section 66F, 67 etc.

However in order to arrest the current trend of killing the freedom of expression on the Internet, there is a need to make some significant amendments and we should start a debate on this requirement. I sincerely feel that the issue of "Freedom on the Net" is of such great relevance in India that it should be an  issue in the coming Parliamentary elections. I would like all political parties to express their stand on the issue and what actions they propose to take in case they come to power.

Along with corruption let "Freedom on the Net" also be a determinant of which party rules India in the next few years.



20th Nov 2012


What the offensive Message stated:

""With all respect, every day, thousands of people die, but still the world moves on. Just due to one politician died a natural death, everyone just goes bonkers. They should know, we are resilient by force, not by choice. When was the last time, did anyone showed some respect or even a two-minute silence for Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Azad, Sukhdev or any of the people because of whom we are free-living Indians? Respect is earned, given, and definitely not forced. Today, Mumbai shuts down due to fear, not due to respect.""

It is anybody's guess how this will fit in as an offensive post either under Section 66A or any other section of IPC. If some policeman thinks so, he deserves to be dismissed forthwith from the onerous responsibility of maintaining "Law and Order" since he cannot understand what is "Law" and maintain what is "order".

People Reportedly Involved

- Shaheen Dhadha, 21 is the person who posted on her FB wall
- Ruhi Shrinivasan is her friend who "liked" the post
- Shrikant Pingle, Police Inspector, Palghar
- Bhushan Sanke, the local Shiv Sena activist who filed the complaint
- Harshal Pradhan, a Shiv Sena spokesman, said that he was unaware of the incident (tried to protect the vandals by being secretive?)
- R G Borse, the Judicial Magistrate of Palghar court

Sections used

Section 295A of IPC, Section 66A. Subsequently section 295A was changed to 505(2) of IPC. (Not known if Section 66A was dropped)

What Kapil Sibal Said on the incident

Why Section 66A need not be blamed in such cases

What Justice Katju says

Related Article:


Mumbai Mirror






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