POSTED BY Buzz ON Nov 01, 2012 AT 23:59 IST ,  Edited At: Nov 01, 2012 23:59 IST

A small scale industrialist in Puducherry was arrested on the charge of posting "offensive" messages on social media targeting Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram's son Karti Chidambaram but released on bail on October 30.

Ravi Srinivasan, owning a plastic packaging material factory, was arrested by local Crime Branch wing of CID Police on a recent e-mail complaint by Karti Chidambaram that he had posted 'offensive' message against him on three occasions since 2011 on the micro blogging site Twitter, police said.

On October 20, Mr Srinivasan tweeted from his Twitter account @ravi_the_indian : “got reports that karthick chidambaram has amassed more wealth than vadra.” 

He was arrested under Section 66-A of Information Technology Act after registration of a case on the complaint by Karti Chidambaram lodged with the Union Territory's Inspector General of Police, they said.

Police produced 45-year old Ravi before Chief Judicial Magistrate Venkatakrishnan and sought 15 days remand. However, the CJM released him since the offence was bailable.

Significantly, Mr Srinivasan too is an activist of India Against Corruption, just like cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, who too was harassed under the same law.

Priscilla Jebaraj reported more details of the case in the Hindu: IAC volunteer tweets himself into trouble, faces three years in jail:

Mr. Srinivasan is however appalled by the reaction his tweet has provoked. “At 5 a.m. on Tuesday [October 30] morning, I was woken up and pulled out of my house by CBCID men and told I was under arrest because of my tweets,” he told The Hindu. “My wife and two daughters were in shock. What wrong have I done?”

The police told him he was being charged because of an e-mail complaint sent by Mr. Karti Chidambaram to the Inspector General of Police, in which he accused him of malicious intent to defame a good man. He was produced before a judicial magistrate and released on bail that evening....

Mr. Srinivasan — whose Twitter tagline reads: Jai- hind guy, want to see India as no 1 in every sphere, believer that india can do it — has only posted 110 tweets in his one and a half years on the microblogging site. He has a grand total of 16 followers, as of Wednesday evening.

“My tweet refers to reports I read about Karti Chidambaram and Robert Vadra in the newspapers. It is not even my own opinion. I don’t know what is defamatory about it,” he said. “When I read the kind of tweets other people have written on corruption, I do not know why I am being targeted.” He wondered if his involvement with the IAC, and participation in their activities in Puducherry, has brought this upon him. In his latest tweet, he asked the IAC for “moral support.”

Interestingly, on October 22, Mr. Chidambaram had tweeted about a story in The Hindu on the arrest of two people who had allegedly harassed singer Chinmayi Sripada on Twitter, and were charged under Section 66-A of the IT Act. Linking to The Hindu’s article, Mr. Chidambaram’s tweet added: “food for thought for you know who! :)”

For ready reference, here is the concerned Section 66-A of the IT Act:

*[ 66A. Punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service, etc..- Any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device,-

(a) any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; or

(b) any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, or ill will, persistently makes by making use of such computer resource or a communication device,

(c) any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages

shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine.

Explanation: For the purposes of this section, terms "Electronic mail" and "Electronic Mail Message" means a message or information created or transmitted or received on a computer, computer system, computer resource or communication device including attachments in text, image, audio, video and any other electronic record, which may be transmitted with the message.

[* Inserted vide Information Technology Amendment Act, 2008]

As activist Shivam Vij points out in his article today: Sibal's Law: 'Grossly offensive' and of 'menacing character'

It's a cognisable offence so you have to be arrested and apply for bail. As though you had committed murder!

If the same allegation was made on wall graffiti or by Arvind Kejriwal at a press conference, nobody would go to jail. But say it on Twitter and the long arm of the law gets a little longer.

Why is it that Subramanian Swamy can make strong corruption allegations against Karti P Chidambaram, as he did back in April, but Chidu Jr won't put Subramanian Swamy in jail?...

There have already been at least three cases of misuse of this section, before even Kapil Sibal's colleague's son put it to use.

In April 2011, the West Bengal police arrested Jadavpur University Professor Ambikesh Mohapatra for merely forwarding on e-mail a cartoon making fun of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, using a reference to a Satyajit Ray detective story. It reached Mamta Banerjee and she was offended.

Sibal's Law was used and the cartoonist was in jail.

Other charges -- such as defamation and insulting women under the Indian Penal Code -- were not cognisable, so it was only Sibal's Law that treated him like, well, a gross offender.

Similarly, Congress and Dalit activists in Maharashtra targeted cartoonist Aseem Trivedi for his anti-corruption cartoons that he displayed at the MMRDA grounds in Mumbai in December 2011. Their real intent, it seems, was to show the Anna Hazare movement as being anti-national. They charged him with the cognisable offence of sedition, but also with Sibal's Law -- because the cartoons were also available online...

The government has appropriated to itself the task of deciding what is reasonable speech and what is unreasonable speech. That task should belong to the courts and the Indian Penal Code is enough for that.

If the tweet is defamatory, Chidu Jr should file a defamation case. There is no need for any special law for the Internet. The need for special Internet laws is felt by the powerful who realise that criticism and dissent are no longer the monopoly of a pliable, corporate media.

Also See an older profile of Karti Chidambaram: The Subtle Rules Of Go-Karting

Some of the reactions on Twitter:

POSTED BY Buzz ON Nov 01, 2012 AT 23:59 IST ,  Edited At: Nov 01, 2012 23:59 IST
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Daily Mail
Nov 07, 2012
11:09 AM

 The gentleman in twitter, didn't know that people would mind, if he made a tweet like this, about anyone, and in society, when you don't know how you should say, when you should, or whether one should be speaking to another person in a situation at all, then it is given, that the person is confused about how people in the world interact. I am not offending or accusing people. People can have misunderstandings with anyone, they interact with. People are asking, how is your education, social status, etc., the cause of your interaction with me, when I am not aware of the same? Perhaps, I wouldn't care to interact with you, if you feel that you are justified in your interaction, for the given reasons, and you don't regard my education, social status, either higher or lower, according to your estimation, and you feel, you are unfairly at an advantage, or otherwise? If a parliamentarian earned a large amount as a parliamentarian, as salary, people should see that this man is living the life of a human being. People might be seeing, that this man wants to continue to be a parliamentarian, and just as he has no choice, telling me what is good and bad for me, I have to also interact with people, just to stay in my profession, whether the other's profession is important, or not, and if my profession is important to the other.

Aditya Mookerjee
Belgaum, India
Nov 06, 2012
06:48 PM

This Karti Chidambaram was the same man who began an online 'free' thinking forum few years ago along with a supposed poet who would become a well 'renowned' much for promoting free thought!.;)

 The renowned politician was Kanimozhi.:)

chennai, India
Nov 05, 2012
10:59 PM

 Can anyone be arrested on the basis of an email complaint or is this privilege accorded only to sons of Union Ministers?


Delhi police can detain you for looking too Tibetan.

nobody inparticular
Mumbai, India
Nov 04, 2012
05:39 PM

I think Mr.Ravi should sue the Puducherry Police & the officer who arresed him for wrongful detention and Mr.Karti Chidambaram for filing a false case.

chennai, India
Nov 04, 2012
04:07 PM

 Every law of the land has been twisted and tortured by the Fynastic fascist party, the Congress. I would like tok know by whcih law can Chidambaram claim to be an elected MP when he was defeated in Sivagangai election. And what about all the allegations of corruption. Defamation suggets that politicians can be defamed. But most of them are criminals and cannot be defamed.

Bahu Virupaksha
Pondicherry, India
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