[India], May 14 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted bail to West Bengal BJP functionary Priyanka Sharma, who was arrested on May 10 for allegedly posting a morphed picture of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Facebook, and asked her to tender a written apology after release.
A vacation bench comprising Justices Indira Banerjee and Sanjiv Khanna had earlier directed 25-year-old Sharma to furnish an apology before her release.
"Subject to Priyanka Sharma tendering an apology in writing for putting up an objectionable picture on Facebook account, she shall be immediately released. At the time of release, she shall tender an apology in writing," the bench had said in its previous order.
The court later called back Sharma's lawyer Neeraj Kishan Kaul and informed him about the change in its direction.
Senior advocate Kaul, during the hearing, had contended that asking for an apology would amount to infringement of the Right to Freedom of Speech.
The bench also issued notice to West Bengal police on Sharma's petition challenging her arrest.
She was taken into custody on May 10 on a complaint by a Trinamool Congress member and produced a day later before a Howrah court which sent her to 14 days judicial custody.
Kaul had mentioned the plea before the court for an urgent hearing on Monday. However, the bench had agreed to hear it today.
The BJP functionary's counsel had yesterday submitted that due to an ongoing strike by lawyers in West Bengal, there was no legal remedy available in the state and therefore, she had to approach the apex court.
Sharma, convenor of the Bharatiya Janata Party's youth wing in Howrah, had on May 9 posted a picture of actor Priyanka Chopra at the recent Metropolitan Museum Gala in New York with Banerjee's face allegedly superimposed on the actor's.
In Howrah, her family distributed sweets and thanked the Supreme Court for granting her bail.
Sharma's mother Raj Kumari said that the state government's decision to arrest was not right.
"I am very happy. I am awaiting my daughter's return. I heartily thank the Supreme Court for such a decision. If she had done anything wrong, the government could have warned her but directly putting her in custody and that too for 14 days is not done," she said.
Earlier, the family had alleged that she was arrested at the ruling TMC's behest as she worked for BJP.
Her mother told ANI on Sunday, "My daughter was arrested because she used to work for BJP. This is all part of a bigger plot. This is the first time she is far away from us. Had she been a TMC worker, nothing bad would have happened to her, This has been done at the behest of TMC. The fact that she is in jail has increased our worries."
The arrest led to strong condemnation by BJP leaders, who alleged that TMC was indulging in politics of "hate and violence" and that an "Emergency-like situation' prevailed in the state.
On Sunday, BJP leader and Assam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma met with Sharma's family members and said that the current situation in the state is reminiscent of 'Emergency'.
On Monday, Union Minister Mahesh Sharma denounced the West Bengal government for the action and said that such politics is neither good for the country nor the state.
"In West Bengal, such things have been going on for long. Even (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi ji is called 'chor,' liar, expired and all that, but we did not take any action against anyone. This is because we believe that in politics there must be open debate and discussion. The opposition has an important role. But in West Bengal, they (TMC) are threatening our workers and indulging in politics of hate and violence. This is neither good for the country, nor the state," he told ANI.
Priyanka Sharma has been charged under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code (defamation), 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. (ANI)