14/05/2019 12:25 PM IST | Updated 14/05/2019 9:00 PM IST

Mamata's Morphed Photo: SC First Asks BJP Worker To Apologise, Then Modifies Order & Allows Release

Priyanka Sharma was arrested for allegedly sharing photo in which Mamata Banerjee’s face had been photoshopped on to actor Priyanka Chopra’s picture.

Rupak De Chowdhuri / Reuters

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the release of the BJP youth wing worker Priyanka Sharma for posting a morphed image of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on social media. 

The court had initially granted her conditional bail and asked for a written apology. It then called the lawyer back and modified the order to allow for her release without an apology, ANI reported. 

According to the Indian Express, Sharma has been directed to apologise following her release.

Sharma was arrested by the Bengal police on 10 May for allegedly shared on Facebook a photo in which Banerjee’s face had been photoshopped on to actor Priyanka Chopra’s picture from the MET Gala event in New York.

The case was heard by a vacation bench comprising justices Indira Banerjee and Sanjiv Khanna.

During the hearing on her bail plea, the top court observed, “We can grant bail but she has to apologise.” 

Senior advocate NK Kaul, who was appearing for Sharma, said “asking for apology is amount to infringement of right to freedom of speech.” He asked that she be granted bail while he took instruction on an apology from her, ANI reported.

“It concerns me that she is being made to apologise for this. Anyone else tomorrow will be told that you will be arrested for memes and you will have to apologise for bail,” Kaul told the bench, Bar&Bench reported.

According to ANI, the court called the advocate back after passing an order on Sharma’s conditional bail and modified it to allow for her immediate release. 

The modified order removed the condition of the apology for allowing release. 

The larger question pertaining to freedom of expression has been kept open by the court and a notice has been issued to West Bengal government, Bar&Bench reported.

Sharma’s family reacted to the initial order saying they were happy she had been granted bail.

Sharma had been arrested by the police under section 500 (defamation) of the IPC and under other provisions of the Information Technology Act on the complaint of a local Trinamool Congress leader Vibhas Hazra, the plea said.

The senior advocate said the BJP activist had been forced to move the apex court as there was a complete strike in local courts till 14 May in Howrah and that she has been remanded to 14 days judicial custody by a Howrah local court on 11 May. 

Her arrest had been followed by protests from the BJP and other social media users.

(With PTI inputs)