A teenage student of Class 11 has been arrested and sent to jail for allegedly posting on Facebook “objectionable” comments attributed to Uttar Pradesh minister Azam Khan, kicking off a fresh controversy over the booking of people under a contentious provision of the Information Technology Act.
The student of a reputed school in Bareilly was detained on Monday evening after Fasahat Ali, a close aide of Khan, filed a complaint with police. A court later remanded him in judicial custody for a fortnight.
Rampur district police chief Sadhana Goswami said the teenager was arrested for posting an “objectionable, communal comment” in Khan’s name.
“He has confessed to his act, which is a crime under the IT Act. So we have proceeded as per rules. Such mischievous communal posts can create trouble,” Goswami said.
The student’s family reportedly told the court which sent him to judicial custody on Monday that he had only shared the Facebook post and not created it.
Police booked the student, whose age could not immediately be ascertained, under Section 66(A) of the IT Act, which prohibits the sending of information of a “grossly offensive” or “menacing” nature through computers and communication devices.
Section 66(A) has been used by several states to arrest people for posts on social media that officials claimed were “seditious”,” communally sensitive” or abusive despite directives from the Supreme Court about potential abuse of the provision.
Nearly two years ago, poet and writer Kanwal Bharti was arrested by police for posting a message on Facebook that criticised Azam Khan, a top leader of the Samajwadi Party that rules Uttar Pradesh, and the state government for suspending IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal after she cracked down on the sand mafia.
Goswami also claimed the student was planning to sit for the intermediate or 10+2 examination as a private student. “At least this is what he told us. We were earlier told he was a Class VIII student and later a Class X dropout,” she said.
She insisted the youngster had confessed. “He admitted creating and uploading the objectionable content after attributing it to the minister,” she claimed.
Besides Section 66(A) of the IT Act, police booked the teenager under provisions of the Indian Penal Code, including section 153 (a), which relates to spreading enmity among people on religious grounds, section 504 (deliberate mischief with the intention of creating trouble) and section 505 (indulging in mischief).