Over 43 cases were registered in connection with posting of false information on social media.

Two arrested for gossiping on Jayalalithaas health is TN police going too far
news Arrest Saturday, October 15, 2016 - 12:39

On Friday, the Coimbatore police arrested a bank clerk and a jewelry appraiser on the basis of a complaint registered by an AIADMK functionary. What was their crime? They spoke about Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s health condition in a mocking manner.

In the backdrop of the Tamil Nadu government’s silence on Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s health, rumours have been aplenty, and a slew of arrests have been made over rumour-mongering. The arrests total seven so far. Though almost all the other arrests have been for uploading fake audios or videos, the Coimbatore arrests were for mere gossiping. The conversation was overheard by someone and an argument allegedly happened over it.

Calling it a violation of human rights, DMK spokesperson Saravanan said, “When there is no sufficient information from the government, people are bound to spread rumours, especially when it's a leader like Chief Minister Jayalalithaa,” he said. “It is highly unfortunate. We are in a democracy and not a dictatorship, no matter how unpleasant the situation is people are going to talk, especially when there is no information,” he said about the Coimbatore incident,

The Hindu quoted CH Venkatachalam, general secretary, All India Bank Employees’ Association saying that the CCTV footage obtained from the bank had no evidence of any heated conversation between the accused staff and the AIADMK functionary Punitha Devi.

Officers of the Central Crime Branch said over 43 cases had been registered in connection with posting of false information on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and WhatsApp. 

Saravavan feels if rumours are not leading to violence, it is not right to make arrests. “We do not know the truth so how do we know if it is a rumour. Who takes a decision on what is a rumour? In that situation, it is very arbitrary. I think they want to terrorize the citizens,” he said.

"For speculations or gossips or rumours, you cannot slap criminal charges on people. It is the Chief Minister’s health which is at stake, we all want her to get well and come back. So this does not mean that people will not indulge in speculating about her health, she is a public figure and her well-being affects a common man’s life also. I feel criminalizing such acts shows the weakness of the state and the arbitrary manner in which it is functioning,” says Sudha Ramalingam, a leading advocate.

Retired judge of the Madras High Court, Justice D. Hariparanthaman opined that regular updates about the CM’s health would put an end to rumours.

Here’s a timeline of cases registered against individuals under various sections, including provocation and intent to alarm.

October 4th: While this was not an arrest, a case was registered based on a Facebook post by Tamizachi, who claims to be residing in France. She claimed that the Chief Minister was dead and that an RSS hand was involved.

Based on a complaint filed by the AIADMK IT secretary, the Central Crime Branch (CCB) registered a case against her under sections 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot), 505 (1) (whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statements, rumour or reports) and 505 (1) (b) (with intent to cause or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public) of the Indian Penal Code.

Soon after the case was booked, Tamizachi posted a comment on Facebook claiming that it was a welcome move from the police and that she was expecting the arrival of the French police. No arrest took place.

October 10: The Chennai City Police arrested two persons who allegedly posted false statements and rumours on Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's health through Facebook and a website.

Following complaints from AIADMK IT wing secretary G. Ramachandran and Rajakamal of Nungambakkam, the CCB arrested two persons.

Sathish Kumar, a techie, had allegedly posted derogatory information on the Chief Minister's health.

Another accused, Madasamy, is an AC mechanic from Pandian Nagar in Madurai. He allegedly used a portal called tamilentertainment.co.in and uploaded a conversation that is supposedly between a staff of the hospital where the chief minister is undergoing treatment and someone else. 

Both the accused have been remanded to judicial custody. 

October 13:  4 arrests were made in a day. 

Two arrests were made by the Coimbatore police based on a complaint from an AIADMK functionary that a bank clerk and a certified jewellery appraiser had mocked Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s health condition. 

They were subsequently remanded in judicial custody.

According to the FIR, AIADMK functionary Punitha Devi had gone to the Canara Bank’s Thondamuthur branch on October 7. She had then allegedly overheard L Ramesh, the bank’s clerk, and R Suresh, the certified jewellery appraiser, making adverse comments about Ms. Jayalalithaa’s condition.

When Devi objected to their conversation, the duo allegedly spoke to her in an intimidating manner, following which she left the bank.

Thirumani Selvam, a bank official from Thoothukudi, was arrested by the Crime Branch police for spreading false rumours about Jayalalithaa’s health on Facebook. 

Another man, Balasundaram from Pammal, was arrested by the police for a similar crime. 

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