Jharkhand Entrepreneur Spent 6 Days In Jail For Posting Meme On CM Raghubar Das
On April 4, Cyber Crime cell, Jharkhand arrested a young Ranchi-based entrepreneur for posting a meme in which an ad for a mouth freshener was juxtaposed with a footage of Chief Minister Raghubar Das. The part of the video clip which has the CM shows him rebuking opposition members.
In an unprecedented crackdown on Freedom of Expression, Jharkhand Police has arrested Sarabpreet Singh, creator of Made in Ranchi and an amazing tech enterpreuneur, just because this video took a harmless dig at CM Raghubar Das.I strongly condemn this and demand #FreeSarabpreet
Posted by Praveen Kuwar on Wednesday, April 4, 2018
The arrest of Sarabpreet Singh met with a lot of criticism both online and offline.
Sarbpreet was arrested on April 4 and was finally granted bail on April 10.
Man arrested for posting video
Sarabpreet Singh is the founder of the e-commerce and blogging website named “Made In Ranchi”.
The video was uploaded as an April Fool Day’s joke on social media platforms Twitter and Facebook through the social handle of Made In Ranchi. It is a 32-second voice-over-mouth of a Mentos ad and a Bollywood song.
The video starts with popular nineties Bollywood song “Mirchi Lagi” which is followed by the Assembly’s winter session footage where CM Raghubar Das can be seen uttering the words “Mirchi Lag Gaya” while admonishing opposition members.
Perfetti Van Melle India Ltd, the Indian wing of the Italian corporation which manufacturers the mouth freshener filed a trademark infringement complaint with the cyber police station. According to the FIR, a copy of which is present with The Telegraph says that the voice over from the popular advertisement of Mentos is being used in the video which aims to demean the CM and other dignitaries. The FIR recorded the offence as “Twitter account mein mukhyamantri ke khilaf apattijanak video upload ka (Uploading an objectionable video against the CM on Twitter).”
Singh had been booked under sections 419 (impersonation), 420 (fraud), 468 (forgery), 500 (defamation) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the IPC, section 103 (false trademark) and 105 (subsequent offence) of the Trademark Act, 1999, and Section 66c and 66d (identity theft) of the IT Act. If proven guilty, the maximum punishment awarded would be of seven years in jail and fine or both.
Several people have termed it as an infringement on freedom of speech and that it was done in a lighter vein, which did not intend to demean the CM.
Released on bail after spending 6 days in jail
The Logical Indian spoke to Rohit Tripathy, founder of e-commerce webiste Ranchi Mall and a friend of Sarabpreet. He said, “Sarabpreet posted a small video as a joke. It was posted as an April fool’s day joke and did not intend to malign anybody’s image. Some of the ministers under the Chief Minister went ahead and contacted Perfetti Van Melle India Ltd., which then registered a case on April 3. The police came searching for Sarabpreet, who was not at his residence at that time. When Sarabpreet returned, he himself went to the police station on April 4. The paper work was delayed and Sarabpreet was made to wait at the police station and finally arrested at 5:30 pm.”
“Since then, Sarabpreet had been locked up in jail. The bail application was in court and Sarabpreet was granted bail on the morning of April 10. He was falsely imprisoned for six days and the case is still going on.”
When The Logical Indian contacted Cyber Crime Police Station, Ranchi, they said, “Sarabpreet Singh has been granted bail on April 10.”
The Logical Indian take
Too many cases have come to light where our representatives have shown no capacity for opposing opinions, even in the form of humour. Defamation and Section 505 are the easiest tools used by authorities to keep all rebuttal at bay. Citizens, journalists, comedians and the media are the worst affected by the inflated and unwarranted sense of pride and entitlement of those in a position of power.
Our freedom of expression comes with the license to make jokes and offend. This is the sole way a democracy can function – when all opinions, even if distasteful for some, are given a platform to be expressed.
One wonders the Jharkhand government’s intention behind incarcerating Singh – was it to keep the Chief Minister’s “respect” intact or to ensure obedience from citizens?
Any law is meant to safeguard citizens and the country, not the government. It is when we understand this, the debate on free speech will be in our favour.