Arrest of people on the plea of spreading rumours about ill health of Tamil’s CM
The recent arrests of several people in Tamil Nadu on charges of spreading rumours about the health of Chief Minister Jayalalithaa are a cause of serious concern.
While the State police might have its reasons to worry about threats to public order in the wake of wild rumours circulating on social media, arresting so many people reflects a forceful behaviour and a failure to distinguish between unfounded speculation and motivated trouble causing elements.
Nearly a month after the Chief Minister’s unfortunate hospitalisation, the people of Tamil Nadu know very little about her health, other than the details released through sparsely-worded hospital bulletins.
Given that there has been no official word from the State government, it is not entirely unnatural that her extended stay in hospital has led to people speculating about her ill-health — some of them owe allegiance to rival political parties.
Abuse of authority
To arrest people on charges of posting WhatsApp or Facebook messages is a gross abuse of authority.
If the government is keen on curtailing rumours, it would do better by keeping people updated regularly on the broad state of the Chief Minister’s health, a matter that is a source of concern for all well-meaning people in the State.
Criminal intimidation, public mischief are sections of the law that have been used by police, at the behest of overenthusiastic political bosses, on the basis of a mistaken sense of personal loyalty to Ms. Jayalalithaa.
Instances of arrest without sufficient cause and proof
The arrest of two employees of a bank in Coimbatore is particularly unsettling, as the police went solely by the word of an AIADMK functionary.
Neither the CCTV footage nor the testimony of other bank employees suggests any attempt on the part of those arrested to disrupt public order or, even, spread rumours.Even if the two employees did speak of the Chief Minister’s health condition, the conversation constituted a private exchange — it cannot be compared to posts on social media.