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In an incident that has shocked even repressive, authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and China, let alone liberal ones committed to free- speech, Nitin Paranjpe, a second year engineering student from Pune, was arrested for posting facetious messages about certain public figures on social asocial networking site, Google+.
A shell-shocked Nitin was heard screaming, “How the bloody hell did this spread?” as he was led away in the wee hours of dawn for questioning by law-enforcement authorities, informed sources.
Legal luminaries have criticized the legality of the arrest and blasted the cops for over-reach. “While the Information Technology Act indeed makes it illegal to post offensive, for that matter any type of, content, on the social media, I just fail to see how Google+ qualifies as a social networking site. Have the Pune cops gone mad?” wondered Harish Salivate, prominent advocate cum cyber-law expert.
Reactions expressing dismay continued to pour in from various quarters from the world including Afghanistan. Renegade Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, tweeted from his cave near the Af-Pak border: “Jst hrd that kid arrested for posting insulting stuff on Google+. Still reeling from the shock (sic).”
Even China, which prefers not to comment on human rights violations in other countries, issued a demarche asking India to desist from detaining people for posting on Google+, terming it a mockery of censorship.
Union Telecom Minister, Shri Kapil Sibal, has blasted the Pune cops for not acting within the confines of the law and misusing their powers under the Information Technology Act. “Even I occasionally let off steam on Google+ by ranting against my colleagues and the Congress leadership using the alias ‘Fake_Sibal_000’, secure in the knowledge that no one will notice. In today’s over-networked and intrusive world, Google+ is a haven of tranquillity and solitude where one can express one’s innermost feelings and thoughts without any fear of recriminations.”
Sibal has now promised to amend the IT Act to make it permissible to post whatever one feels like on the highly uninhabited social networking site. He also ordered an inquiry into how the student’s comments on Google+ even managed to spread in the first place so as to alert the authorities.