The 25-year-old has been booked under Section 500 of the IPC (defamation), and Sections 66A (offensive messages) along with the non-bailable 67A (punishment for publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act, etc., in electronic form) of the Information Technology Act.
A BJP Yuva Morcha leader who was arrested on Friday for sharing a photoshopped image of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on her Facebook profile. Produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court in Howrah on Saturday, 25-year-old Priyanka Sharma was slapped with non-bailable charges and sent to judicial custody for two weeks, The Indian Express said in a report.
Sharma, whose Facebook profile says that she is the Howrah district club cell convener for the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), was arrested for allegedly sharing a picture of Bollywood actor Priyanka Chopra at the red carpet of the recent Met gala in New York, and had Mamata Banerjee’s face superimposed on that of the actor’s. The meme can now no longer be seen on Priyanka’s Facebook timeline.
The 25-year-old has been booked under Section 500 of the IPC (defamation), and Sections 66A (offensive messages) along with the non-bailable 67A (punishment for publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act, etc., in electronic form) of the Information Technology Act. Police told the Indian Express that they acted on a complaint by local Trinamool Congress leader Vibhas Hazra.
“She was produced at a court in Howrah which has remanded her in police custody for 14 days. That is all I can say,” a senior police officer of Howrah Police was quoted as saying in the IE report.
However, it seems that the accused will have to wait before she can seek bail as courts in Howrah will remain on strike till May 14.
Legal pundits say that it will be difficult for the police to establish obscenity or the photoshopped image’s “sexually explicit” nature. Moreover, Section 66A, it must be noted that the other provision that Sharma was booked with, was struck down by the Supreme Court in March 2015.
Sharma had joined the saffron party six months ago and has a shop near her house in Howrah’s Dasnagar, where she lives along with her brother and mother.
“Many people posted the same meme on social media. She was just one of them. Police said she edited it. How is that possible? Our chief minister speaks of democracy and you get arrested and jailed for posing a meme,” Rajiv, Priyanka’s brother who says he works as a freelance model told the publication.
“There was a complaint at the Cyber Crime department against the post. The police have done the right thing by taking action as it is a criminal offence. The post was in bad taste. The West Bengal Chief Minister is a woman and any post like this is not acceptable. We condemn such incidents, especially if done during elections,” Senior Trinamool leader and state minister Arup Roy told The Sunday Express.
BYJM Howrah district chief Om Prakash Singh told that Sharma became part of the party after interacting with him on Facebook. “She joined the party six months ago and has been an active worker and a booth agent. She is our face in Dasnagar area, where earlier people did not dare to join us. Many of us shared the meme. I do not know why she is being targeted.”
Criticizing the arrest, Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma said on his Twitter account. “Appalled at an Emergency-like situation in WB. Freedom of expression is severely curbed. Priyanka Sharma, executive member of bjym4howrah, has been sent to 14-day police custody for posting a Met Gala-themed meme . Please release her.”
The Met Gala, is a fundraising gala which is held every year and also marks the opening of the fashion exhibition of the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Bollywood actor Priyanka Chopra had also attended the Gala and took the internet by storm with her Chopard jewels and Dior gown.