Two cops suspended, magistrate shifted for Facebook arrests

Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Shrinivasan
Amid mounting public anger, two police officers, including the police chief of Thane (Rural) were today suspended for the arrest of two girls over a Facebook post criticising the shutdown for Bal Thackeray's funeral, while the judicial magistrate who granted them bail was shunted out.

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

He assured 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.

He said senior officers will probe what charges could be dropped.

Earlier, the Bombay High Court transferred judicial magistrate R G Bagade who had granted bail to Shaheen Dhada and Renu Srinivasan, who 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 enlarging the girls on bail, Bagade should have discharged them from the case as they had been booked under wrong sections.

The duo was arrested under IPC sections 295 (A) (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) and 505(2) IPC (statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes) and the IT Act.

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 including the Inspector General of Police and Additional Director General of Police, who had advised against arresting the girls.

Inspector Pingle has invited action for charging them under wrong sections and preparing faulty records, he said, adding necessary legal advice would be obtained on the question of use of the section pertaining to IT Act and workshops would be organised for the police force to check its misuse.

Earlier, the Maharashtra government had ordered an inquiry by IG (Konkan Range) Sukhvindar Singh into the incident.

In his report to the state's DGP Sanjeev Dayal, Singh had indicted policemen involved in initiating action against the girls and observed that the arrests could have been avoided.

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