The Supreme Court on Wednesday criticised the West Bengal government for delaying the release ofBJP Yuva Morcha leader Priyanka Sharma,  who was arrested on May 10 for sharing a meme of state CM Mamata Banerjee on social media, PTI reported. It also called the arrest “prima facie arbitrary”.

“This is not done. First of all the arrest was prima facie arbitrary,” the vacation bench consisting of justices Indira Banerjee and Sanjiv Khanna said while also warning that it would issue contempt against officials concerned if Sharma is not released immediately from jail. However, Sharma claimed that she was released after 18 hours of the announcement of bail in her press conference today. She was also allegedly made to sign an apology by the police. She added that ‘she will fight this case and will not apologise’.

“My bail was granted yesterday, but still I wasn’t released for another 18 hours. They didn’t allow me to meet my advocate and family. They made me sign an apology,” Sharma added.

Her advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul told the court that Sharma was released from jail at around 9:40 am on Wednesday. He corroborated Sharma’s claims of her being made to forcefully sign an apology letter before being released by the state police authorities. Kaul also said that it was a ready apology letter which says she will not post this (meme) again, Indian Express reported.

“I’m told, subject to verification, that she was released at 9:40-10:00 am and that too after made to sign a statement prepared by police. It reflects an extremely disturbing trend that SC’s order that said ‘forthwith release her’ wasn’t followed for 24 hrs,” he was quoted as saying by ANI.

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Sharma was earlier sent to two-week judicial custody for sharing a morphed image of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Facebook. And while the SC asked Sharma to apologise for her action, it also said that it is not a condition for her immediate release. The court has merely asked her to write an apology after she leaves custody.

“My bail was granted yesterday, but still I wasn’t released for another 18 hours. They didn’t allow me to meet my advocate and family. They made me sign an apology,”

While the court ordered for her immediate release, it observed that a political leader shoulders greater responsibility than a common citizen to exercise restraint. A politician, even a young leader like Ms Sharma, should be prudent. “Freedom of expression cannot encroach on the rights of another person,” Justice Banerjee remarked, The Hindu reported.

She also reprimanded Sharma for wrongfully putting one person’s face on someone else’s face. Sharma had shared a meme in which Banerjee’s face was superimposed on Chopra’s face from her recent Met Gala look. She was then arrested by West Bengal police on May 10 for sharing the meme under Section 500 (defamation) of the IPC and under other provisions of the Information Technology Act on a complaint from a local Trinamool Congress leader, Vibhas Hazra.

Picture credit: The Wire

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