Facebook post row: Two Thane cops suspended, magistrate shifted

Last Updated: Tue, Nov 27, 2012 19:25 hrs

Two police officers, including the police chief of Thane (Rural), were on Tuesday suspended for the arrest of two girls over a Facebook post criticising the shutdown for Bal Thackeray's funeral, while the judicial magistrate who remanded them in custody was shunted out.

SP Ravindra Sengaonkar and senior police inspector Shrikant Pingle have been suspended and a departmental inquiry ordered against them, Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil told reporters.

He assured that the departmental inquiry would be completed in the shortest possible time.

Patil said Additional SP Sangram Nishandar has been "warned in writing and reprimanded" for dereliction of duty.

"Wrong sections were applied against the girls. There was no need to take hasty action (against the girls)," Patil said, adding senior officers will probe what charges can be dropped.

Earlier, the Bombay High Court transferred judicial magistrate R G Bagade who first remanded Shaheen Dhada and Renu Srinivasan in custody and granted bail to them. The two girls were arrested last Monday after the former posted a Facebook status lamenting the November 18 shutdown and the latter "liked" it.

Though Dhada had not named Thackeray, a local Sena leader complained against the girls and police arrested the duo on November 19, sparking an outrage. A hospital owned by Dhada's uncle was also vandalised despite the girl apologising for her post.

The arrest had set off a debate with some legal experts maintaining that instead of remanding and then enlarging the girls on bail, Bagade should have discharged them from the case as they had been booked under wrong sections.

Bagade's transfer order issued yesterday by the Registrar of the Bombay High Court said, "JMFC at Palghar R G Bagade is hereby transferred in the same position to Jalgaon with immediate effect."

Patil said SP Shengaokar was placed under suspension for disobeying his superiors, who had advised against arresting the girls. Inspector Pingle invited action for charging them under wrong sections and preparing faulty records, he said.

Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena has called for a bandh in Palghar district on Wednesday as a protest against the suspension of two policemen for arresting the two young women.

Chavan defends 'strict action' against cops

Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on Tuesday defended the suspension of two police officers over the arrest of two girls for their posts on Facebook regarding the bandh observed for Bal Thackeray's funeral.

He said Thane SP Ravindra Sengaonkar and Senior Inspector Shrikant Pingle had acted against the directions given by their seniors while arresting the girls in Palghar, about 100 km from Mumbai.

"The state government has demonstrated strict action by suspending the erring police officers who acted against the advice given by their seniors and arrested the girls," he said during an interaction with the students of Fergusson College here.

The police officers, who effected the arrests on November 19, acted "under pressure", said Chavan, without elaborating.

Advising the students to work for a knowledge and innovation-based society and overcome "negative atmosphere" around them, he said, "My main concern is about facilitating quality education for all sections of the society."

Katju praises Chavan over action against cops

Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on Tuesday came in for praise from Press Council of India chairman Markandey Katju for his government's "strong step" against two police officers who had arrested two girls for their Facebook comments last week.

Katju wrote a letter congratulating Chavan on "your strong step in suspending the police officers who arrested the girl who put up an item on Facebook objecting to the shutdown in Mumbai on the death of Bal Thackeray, as well as the girl who supported her".

He said that the Supreme Court and high courts have "repeatedly held that such bandhs and shutdowns are illegal as they paralyse the entire civic life" in the city.

"Hence what the girls did was in accordance with the Supreme Court judgement. How then could their act be called illegal? In fact it was the policemen who arrested the girls who acted illegally and committed the criminal offences mentioned in sections 341 and 342 IPC," Katju wrote.

Earlier on November 19, he had raised his voice against the arrest of the two girls in Palghar near Mumbai and sought action against the cops who carried out their arrests.

In his letter, he said that if a policeman is issued an illegal order by his superior (whether political or police) it is his duty to refuse to carry out such illegal order, otherwise he must be charged for a criminal offence and given harsh punishment.

The former Supreme Court judge said that if a policeman is given an order by a superior to commit murder, dacoity or rape, he must not obey.

"It seems to me that the delinquent police officers who ordered the arrest of Shaheen and the other girl, and those who implemented this illegal order, succumbed to the pressure of the hundreds of hooligans who came to the police station. What kind of policemen are these who succumb to hooligans," Katju asked.

"I am informed that in recent years hooligan gangs have flourished in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra, and they have terrorised people living in the state. Some of them profess a separatist ideology," he said.

"In my opinion these should be crushed with an iron hand, and it is your duty, as the chief minister to do this, as Chanakya has advised in the Arthashastra, and Bheeshma Pitamah in his upadesh to Yudhishthir in the Shantiparva of Mahabharat," he added.

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