A Madras High Court bench on Thursday granted conditional advance bail to a 24-year-old college student in a case which involves the morphing of a picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami.
This is after three people were already arrested on December 23 following a complaint by an AIADMK lawyer to the Kanyakumari district office.
V Vijay, a sociology student, reportedly went to court claiming that he was in no manner involved in the case and that the police were trying to frame him due to political motives. After listening to the arguments from his counsel, the court granted him advance bail.
The district police told TNM that Vijay was amongst the administrators of a Facebook page where the image was posted. They, however, had no immediate plans to arrest the administrators.
â€śWe have arrested the man who morphed the picture, the one who posted it on WhatsApp and another who uploaded the picture on Facebook,â€ť says the District Superintendent of Police M Durai.
The picture in question shows EPS greeting the Prime Minister during the latterâ€™s visit to Kanyakumari district. It is a practice for members of the AIADMK to wear shirts with transparent pockets, which show a picture of former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa in them. In the morphed version, however, it is PM Narendra Modiâ€™s picture that can be seen.
The edited photo went viral on social networking sites and WhatsApp, drawing the ire of AIADMK members.
Twenty-eight-year-old Alexpandian, an amateur photographer from M Paraipatti village, who allegedly morphed the picture and two others have been booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code. This includes section 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot), section 505 (statements conducive to public mischief) and section 500 (punishment for defamation).
The arrests have led to severe criticism of the police force and the state, which have become increasingly intolerant towards freedom of speech.
When asked about this, the SP says, â€śWe have merely done what is dictated by the law.â€ť
Only in November, Bala, a cartoonist, was arrested in Chennai for a caricature that blamed top government functionaries, including Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, for not acting against loan sharks in Tirunelveli. This was after a family immolated itself in front of the collectorâ€™s office. Bala has been charged with publishing defamatory and obscene material under the penal code and Information Technology Act.