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Absolute excess action on part of police: Calcutta HC orders release of a man arrested for alleged derogatory comments during Mamata Banerjee’s live stream

The court slammed the police for arresting the petitioner on defamation charges, even though the person who filed the complaint against him was not the alleged defamed person.

While ordering the release of a man arrested for criticising the Mamata Banerjee govt in the comment section of a Facebook live video, the Calcutta High Court on 27th June said that the arrest was an absolute excess action on the part of the police. The court also slammed the police for arresting the petitioner on defamation charges, even though the person who filed the complaint against him was not the alleged defamed person.

As a result, the High Court directed the release of the man who was arrested for making allegedly untoward and ‘defamatory’ comments towards some govt officials during a Facebook livestream of an administrative meeting held by West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, Live Law reported on Wednesday (3rd July 2024).

The single bench of Justice Amrita Sinha opined that it was an “absolute excess action on the part of the police” to arrest people for criticising someone, especially when the aggrieved party had not filed the complaint. Slamming the high-handedness of the Police officer, the court ordered the release of the arrested accused. The bench held that the police’s actions in the case amounted to “prima facie over-action.” Notably, the youth was booked under Sections 505(1)(b) and 500 of the Indian Penal Code. It was alleged that he made certain untoward or defamatory remarks against certain government functionaries in the comment section of CM Banerjee’s Facebook Livestream.

During the hearing, the petitioner’s counsel stated that the Police arrested the accused within a day of making the comments during the livestream. The counsel submitted that no due process was followed while arresting the petitioner. According to the petitioner’s counsel, the accused was called to the police station. The Police then immediately arrested him and sent him behind bars without any explanation for offences that were only punishable with less than two years of imprisonment.

However, opposing his release, the State’s Counsel argued that the petitioner was arrested because he had not responded to the notice issued by the Police under Section 41A of the CrPC. 

In contrast, the petitioner’s counsel emphasised that the accused was arrested on a complaint filed by a person who was not the aggrieved party in the present case.

Following the arguments by both sides, the bench expressed concern that the petitioner was arrested for the offence of defamation when the complaint was not even made by the aggrieved persons and within two days of the complaint.

The Court raised objections over the fact that the petitioner was arrested and his fundamental right of speech was curbed without the Police following any due process of law.

The court said, “Where is the bar for people to ventilate their grievances? Just go and arrest somebody? Where is the person who has been defamed? Did Arup Roy (aggrieved party) lodge the complaint? Why will others come in and file a complaint on behalf of him? This is absolute excess action on part of the police it seems.” 

Further, the bench of the Calcutta High Court noted that the petitioner was arrested on the same day when a Section 41A notice was given to him. When the state’s counsel argued that the petitioner had refused to accept the notice, the bench replied, “Can a second notice not be served on him? It is a defamation case of somebody else. Why will he be arrested in the first place? On the same day as the 41A notice is served?” 

The Calcutta High Court then slammed the Police for taking actions against freedom of speech and arresting people for criticising someone.   

The bench said, “Even if it is an aspersion, no court of law has adjudicated on it. Do you want to gag people? They cannot criticise anyone anymore? What is your obligation? To go and arrest people?”

The bench also directed that the CCTV footage of the police station – on the day when the accused was arrested – should be preserved. 

While ordering the petitioner’s release, the court remarked, “Only because a citizen has protested or tried to highlight corruption on the end of a member of the ruling dispensation, the police ought not to have taken such stringent steps to curtail the freedom of such citizen. Act of detention and arrest appears to be an act of high-handedness by the police officer, accordingly, this Court directs the release of the petitioner.”

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OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
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