Supreme Court on Tuesday said they will grant bail to BYJM worker Priyanka Sharma and put forth the condition that she apologises to West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee for the morphed meme she had shared on social media. However, just after few minutes of the announcement, SC waived the apology condition. The release on bail for Sharma was initially made subject to her tendering an apology. However, the Court later modified its order to drop the words “subject to”. Sharma will now have to tender an apology upon her release.

Priyanka Sharma, on May 9, had posted a picture of Mamata Banerjee’s face which was superimposed on actor Priyanka Chopra’s face, the picture of the actor was that of her Met Gala 2019 attire.

“Subject to Priyanka Sharma tendering an apology in writing for putting up an objectionable picture on Facebook account, she shall be immediately released. At the time of release, she shall tender an apology in writing,” a vacation bench comprising Justices Indira Banerjee and Sanjiv Khanna said in its order.

Sharma had been booked under Section 500 IPC (defamation) as well as Section 67A (publishing sexually explicit material) and the defunct Section 66A of Information Technology Act. Since the local courts are on strike, she had to approach Supreme Court. The context of the hearing in the court was “Regardless of political affiliation, arresting someone for a meme is an unwarranted attack on freedom of speech.” Priyanka Sharma’s lawyer argued that Sharma’s arrest was a good abuse of freedom of speech. However, according to SC, fundamental rights can be practiced only until they do not entangle with the fundamental rights of some other individual.

Moreover, netizens too took to twitter to express their opinions, most of which said that the arrest of Sharma is nothing but a hypocrisy and attack on the freedom of speech.

As the hearing proceeded, Justice Bannerjee agreed to grant bail but put a condition that Sharma must apologise. However, Sharma’s lawyer contested this condition saying it is a direct attack on freedom of speech and is ought to create a chilling effect thereafter. Jusctice Bannerjee said, “This isn’t a matter of what’s legally wrong. Problem is that Sharma is from an opposition party – if it had been a common citizen, no problem.”

Speaking to ANI, Priyanka Sharma’s mother said that all this happened because of her daughter’s association with the BJP. “My daughter was arrested because she worked for the BJP…had she been a TMC (Trinamool) worker nothing bad would have happened to her, this is all done by TMC.” she said.

BJP’s youth wing chief in Kolkata, Om Prakash Singh, also responded to the incident and advocated the freedom of speech on social media. “Social media is a place where everybody wants the freedom to express. It is shameful that Mamata Banerjee is curbing freedom on that platform”, he told NDTV.

After Sharma posted the meme on social media, a case was filed against her by a TMC worker at the Dasnagar Police Station in Howrah.

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