SC asks BJP youth leader to apologise for Mamata meme

SC orders her release

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered immediate release of BJP youth wing leader Priyanka Sharma, arrested for posting a meme on TMC chief Mamata Banerjee but she has to give a written apology.

A bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and Sanjiv Khanna said the 26-year-old leader shall be released immediately. However, she has to tender an apology, possibly to Mamata Banerjee.

Sharma's counsel senior advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, for her part, contended tendering an apology on meme, and on evolving caricature would have a chilling effect on freedom of speech. Hundreds of memes are prepared and posted on politicians everyday on the social media, he said.

The bench, however, said, "Freedom of speech is non-negotiable but it ends if it infringed somebody's right."

"There is no equality to two wrongs. We are not putting any condition. But she has to apologise," the bench said.

Priyanka was arrested on Friday for posting on her Facebook a photo in which Mamata Banerjee's face was photoshopped on the form of actor Priyanka Chopra Jonas at MET Gala in New York.

On Monday, her brother Rajib Sharma moved a habeas corpus petition seeking her release.

On Tuesday, Sharma's counsel said it was a "shocking" case where she was arrested for posting a meme on Facebook. She had deleted the post before she was arrested.

The court said it can order her release on tendering an apology. It asked the counsel to take instructions. 

But the counsel said she was in judicial custody for 14 days and can't give an instruction.

"Meme was a kind of political speech and evolving caricature. If everybody has to give an apology, it would have a chilling effect on freedom of speech," he said.

"Whatever is the picture, because you are a member of BJP, it can be taken as otherwise," the bench said, adding she should apologise.

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