The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed bail to Priyanka Sharma, the BJP youth wing worker who had circulated a morphed photograph of Priyanka Chopra with Mamata Banerjee’s head on it, but asked her to apologise in writing after her release.
The vacation bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Indira Banerjee observed that freedom of speech ends when it infringes upon others’ rights.
Twenty-five-year-old Sharma was arrested on May 10 under Section 500 (defamation) of the Indian Penal Code.
Hearing the matter on Tuesday, the bench had initially kept bail conditional to the written apology by Sharma. The court later called back Sharma’s lawyer, senior advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, and said the bail would be granted anyway.
When the bench asked if Sharma was willing to apologise, Kaul said it would have a “chilling” effect on free speech. There have been so many caricatures and cartoons of BJP leaders, but nothing happened in those instances, the lawyer pointed out, adding that a meme is just political satire.
But Justice Banerjee said that “freedom of expression is non-negotiable but it cannot encroach on the rights of another”. The bench said “it is wrong to put one’s face on to some other person”.
The bench also said that because Sharma belonged to a political party, the other side may be offended.
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