NEW DELHI (AP) — India's top court Friday ordered a state government to explain the arrest of two women for a comment one of them posted on Facebook, in a case that has sparked nationwide outrage over the misuse of India's Internet laws.
The women were arrested in Thane, a suburb of Mumbai in the state of Maharashtra, and immediately freed on bail for criticizing the shutdown of India's financial capital after the death last week of a powerful rightwing politician. While one woman posted the comment, her friend who "liked" the comment was also arrested.
The Supreme Court gave Maharashtra four weeks to explain the circumstances under which the women were arrested.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Shreya Singhal, a student in New Delhi, challenging the Internet law and the possibility of its misuse. Singhal said the wording of the law was vague, allowing it to be abused by people in authority.
The widespread protests in the media and the public outcry that followed the arrests led the Maharashtra government to this week suspend the two policemen and transfer the magistrate who had approved the arrest and granted bail.
On Thursday, India's federal telecommunications ministry issued fresh guidelines making it more difficult for police to arrest people for posts on social networking sites. Any arrest for a social media comment that is perceived to create social unrest will now have to be approved by a senior police official.