The National Human Rights Commission has issued a statement, wherein it has “reiterated its recommendations in yet another reminder that the Government of Maharashtra pay Rs 50 thousand each to the two girls, who, it held, were illegally detained by the police following a facebook post after the death of Shiv Sena Chief Bal Thackeray. The Commission has held that their detention was in violation of freedom of speech and expression of views guaranteed in the Constitution of India.”

The girls had been arrested by the Maharashtra Police after some Shiv Sena members in Palghar had become annoyed because of a comment made one girl against a bandh, following the death of Shiv Sena Chief Bal Thakeray, and the other girl had liked the comment.

The Commission, after enquiry observed that “the comments did not indicate any malicious intentions to hurt the feelings of any class or religion or religious beliefs. Bandhs had already been declared as illegal by the court. 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. From the facts disclosed, the police had no reasonable ground for invoking Section 505(2) IPC. Because of the over reaction of the police, these two young women were arrested for which the State is prima facie responsible.

The Commission has also observed that every citizen can interpret these comments as per his/her thoughts. However, these did not have any contents to attract provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000. As per Article 19 of the Constitution of India, every individual has a right to freedom of expression, which is a Fundamental Right and therefore, their arrest was a serious violation of human rights.”

A few things worth noting:
1. The girls, arrested under Section 66a, haven’t received any money, and there isn’t any indication that the NHRC can actually force the Maharashtra Government to make that payment at this stage. According to the note, the NHRC has received “no response to its notice and reminders to show cause why monetary relief should not be paid to the victims of human rights violation”. The Commission has now asked the Chief Secretary of the State to submit the compliance report along with the proof of payment within four weeks” failing which, it may be constrained to take recourse to coercive process under Section 13 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. This isn’t over yet.

2. No penalties appear to have been recommended against the police officers that had wrongfully arrested the girls. If the police breaks the law, shouldn’t the police officers be prosecuted?

That it’s taken this long is, by itself, shameful, and the system of getting justice, by itself, is punishing.

Meanwhile, it’s not like the police have wisened up. Read: Damaging dissent in India