Ordering her immediate release, the top court ordered Priyanka Sharma to apologise for putting up the offending picture on social media.
Priyanka Sharma’s plea was mentioned before the bench for an urgent hearing on Monday. The court had agreed to hear it on Tuesday.
A vacation bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justices Indira Banerjee and Sanjiv Khanna modified their earlier order which said Sharma’s release would be subject to her tendering a written apology. The bench had later dropped the condition and said she would have to apologise following her release.
Priyanka Sharma had moved the SC on Monday. The BJP Yuva Morcha leader, allegedly shared on Facebook a photo in which Banerjee’s face has been photoshopped on to actor Priyanka Chopra’s picture from the MET Gala event in New York.
Her arrest was followed by protests from BJP and other social media users.
Appearing for Sharma, Senior advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul had argued against the order saying it will have a chilling effect on freedom of speech. Kaul called her arrest a gross violation of her constitutional rights and also told the bench that the court’s direction may now be misused for arresting people for posting memes till they tender an apology.
Kaul argued that Sharma deleted the post before she was arrested and that the meme went viral and she was not the only one who had shared it.
Sharma, who is Howrah district club cell convener of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), was arrested on May 10 for sharing a picture of actor Priyanka Chopra with her husband Nick Jonas at the red carpet of an event in New York, with Banerjee’s face superimposed on the actor’s. The image is no longer on Sharma’s Facebook timeline.
Police said they acted on the basis of complaint filed by TMC leader Vibhas Hazra. Sharma was charged under Section 500 of the IPC (defamation), and Sections 66A (offensive messages) and the non-bailable 67A (punishment for publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act, etc., in electronic form) of the Information Technology Act.
On May 11, she was produced before a court in Howrah which remanded her in judicial custody for 14 days.