The Supreme Court on Wednesday warned of contempt of court proceedings against officials of the West Bengal government and Kolkata Police in connection with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) youth wing leader Priyanka Sharma's arrest in the Mamata Banerjee meme case.
A vacation bench comprising Justices Indira Banerjee and Sanjiv Khanna was informed by the counsel of Priyanka Sharma's brother that she was not released from jail on Tuesday despite the apex court granting her bail and ordering her immediate release.
However, the counsel for West Bengal government informed the bench that she has been released from jail at 9:40 am today.
"Why 9:40 am today? The order was passed in your presence," the bench told the state’s counsel.
"The arrest was itself prima-facie arbitrary," observed the vacation bench, and said Sharma should have been release within half an hour of the order passed on Tuesday for the court had given direction for immediate release.
Senior advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, appearing for Priyanka Sharma, also told the bench that jail authorities "forced" her to forced to sign an apology letter drafted by the Kolkata Police before she was released from the prison.
Kaul vehemently argued that this was sheer contempt of court and an application would be made to this effect.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court had ordered immediate bail to Sharma arrested by Kolkata Police for allegedly posting a morphed image of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on social media and directed her to tender an unconditional apology in writing at the time of her release.
Sharma allegedly shared on social networking site Facebook a photo in which Banerjee's face was photoshopped on to actor Priyanka Chopra's picture from the MET Gala event in New York.
Following which, Sharma was as arrested on 10 May under section 500 (defamation) of the Indian Penal Code and under other provisions of the Information Technology Act on the complaint of a local Trinamool Congress leader. Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) entails punishment for defamation with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.
Her arrest was followed by protests from the BJP and other social media users.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Kaul also told the top court that they have moved a separate application, in which they have said that though the closure report in the case was filed in the trial court on 13 May, the apex court was not informed during Tuesday's hearing.
The court will hear the arguments on question of law at length in July after the SC vacation.