Court probes arrests for Facebook message

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India’s top court has ordered a state government to explain the arrest of two women for a comment one of them posted on Facebook.

The case has sparked nationwide outrage over the misuse of India’s internet laws.

The women were arrested in a suburb of Mumbai in the state of Maharashtra, and immediately freed on bail for criticising the shutdown of India’s financial capital after the death last week 
of a powerful right-wing politician. While one woman posted the comment, her friend who “liked” the comment was also arrested.

The Supreme Court gave Maharashtra four weeks to explain the circumstances under which the women were arrested.

The court was hearing a petition by Shreya Singhal, a student in New Delhi, challenging the internet law and its misuse. Ms Singhal said the wording of the law was vague, allowing it to be abused by people in authority.

The widespread protests in the media and the public outcry that followed the arrests led the Maharashtra government to suspend the two policemen and transfer the magistrate who had approved the arrest and granted bail.

India’s federal telecommunications ministry has issued fresh guidelines making it more difficult for police to arrest people for posts on social networking sites.