The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Tuesday sent a reminder to the Maharashtra government to pay Rs. 50,000 each as compensation to two women who were illegally detained for 10 days by police following a Facebook post after the death of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray two years ago.
In a communication to the Maharashtra chief secretary, the NHRC reiterated that “their detention was in violation of the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed in the Constitution.”
It ordered compliance of its order within four weeks along with proof of payment, failing which the NHRC would resort to a coercive process.
The reminder came in the 19 November, 2012 case in which the NHRC took suo motu cognizance after the two 21-year-old women from Palghar town in Thane were arrested.
The women – Shaheen Dhada and Renu Shrinivasan – had lamented in a Facebook post the virtual paralysis in the state on 18 November, 2012 when Thackeray’s funeral was held in Mumbai.
While Shaheen had posted the comment, her friend Renu had ‘liked’ it, angering Shiv Sena leaders who vandalized a hospital run by Shaheen’s uncle.
Police arrested both the women 19 November though they had already removed the post and even apologized for it the same day.
After an inquiry, the NHRC observed that it found no malicious intention in the comments to hurt the feelings of any class or religion.
“The comment only indicated that the bandh was not necessary as a mark of respect to the departed leader and that the city was shut down due to fear and not due to respect,” the NHRC said.
From the facts in the case, the NHRC said police had no reasonable ground to invoke Section 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code that charges people with issuing statements amounting to public mischief, with intent to cause fear or alarm.
“Because of the over-reaction of the police, these two young women had to be in jail for more than 10 days for which the state is prima facie responsible,” it said.