Mumbai(dna): In 2012, college students Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Srinivasan were arrested under section 66 of the IT Act by the Palghar police, for the ‘crime’ of making and clicking like on a Facebook post. Whether they were the first to be arrested under the section is unclear. But their arrests caused widespread public outrage. Their arrests also prompted law student Shreya Singhal to move the Supreme Court against the section. Finally, on Tuesday morning, news that the SC had scrapped the draconian section gladdened the hearts of the two Palghar girls.
Shaheen Dhada, the girl who posted the status, has moved to Bangalore after getting married. She said, “This judgment has proved that laws and sections can often contradict with the constitutional rights. Now no other person would face the whip of law for sharing thoughts on social media.”
Shaheen’s father Mohd Farooq said, “Our family is proud of our daughter because she managed to face tough times. The verdict has kept our faith in the judicial system alive. We would celebrate this historic moment. It’s a moment of pride for the whole family that the apex court of the largest democracy heard the plea of two girls from Palghar.”
The BMS student Dhada on 18 November 2012 had made a Facebook post lamenting the bandh which was imposed after the death of Shiv Sena Supremo Bal Thackeray a day earlier. Reacting to her online dissent, Shiv Sainiks vandalised her uncle’s hospital. Her friend Rinu Srinivasan had clicked ‘like’ under the FB message.
Both Dhada and Srinivasan were promptly arrested by Palghar police. Charges against them included Indian Penal Code section 505(2) (creating or promoting enmity in society) and 66(a) of the Information Technology Act (posting objectionable content online).
Ultimately, these charges were dropped. For having arrested the girls, the Home ministry suspended two policemen: Ravindra Sengaonkar, Superintendent of Police, Thane Rural; and Shrikant Pingle, Senior Police Inspector, Palghar. The cops were later reinstated.
Rinu Srinivasan, who is attending her brother’s wedding in Ahmedabad with her family, said, “When I was informed by Shreya didi that the final hearing would be held today, we started praying for the positive result. Soon after the order, I started receiving numerous congratulatory calls from people. I and my family are very happy about the result which came after three years.”
Rinu’s brother Rahul said, “As soon as the verdict came, our family was in tears. We are very proud that she did not end up being the victim and fought for her right. We thank the petitioner Shreya Singhal for taking an initiative, as it is a historical judgement.”