In round-2 of the Air India cabin crew online fracas, the Cyber Crime Unit of the Mumbai Police on Friday registered a case under Section 66 (a) of the IT Act against Sagar Karnik, Treasurer, Air India Cabin Crew Association for allegedly abusing and threatening two colleagues online.
The FIR against Karnik was based on a complaint by Jaganatharao and Sharma, who were arrested on similar allegations by Karnik earlier. Six months ago, on Karnik’s complaint, police had filed an FIR against Jaganatharao and Mayank Mohan Sharma and arrested them in May. They got bail from the Sessions Court after 12 days. The two were arrested under Sections 66 (a) and 67 of the IT Act and Section 506 (2) of the Indian Penal Code.
Karnik in his complaint had told police they used abusive language on Facebook and Orkut against politicians including Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, former Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel and a woman colleague in Air India. The complaint also said they insulted the national flag.
In July, Jaganatharao and Sharma had written to the Commissioner of Police alleging Kiran Pawaskar, former Shiv Sainik and current Nationalist Congress Party MLC had influenced their arrest.
The police did not respond to the letter and there was no further moment on the issue until the furore over the arrest of two girls from Palghar last month for posting a Facebook comment questioning the bandh after Bal Thackeray’s death, which also opened a debate on Section 66 of the IT Act. After the Palghar row, Jaganatharao and Sharma came out in the open.
In his statement to Cyber Crime Police on Friday, Jaganatharao said Karnik abused him many times on Facebook between March 2011 and June 2012, over a dispute over the AICCA elections. He alleged that on November 1, 2011, Karnik had mentioned on Facebook that he had a gun and would get Jaganatharao arrested by the cyber police.
“Karnik later registered complaint against us with the Cyber Crime police,” said Jaganatharao. “Karnik called us ‘pagal’ (mad) and ‘Dushasan’. After we submitted a letter to the CP in July, the police took around four months to register an FIR against Karnik,” said Jaganatharao, adding that if Karnik was not arrested why were they? Karnik too had abused and threatened them on Facebook even before they were arrested, Jaganatharao argued. Officers of the Cyber Crime police station in Bandra Kurla Complex confirmed having registered an FIR against Karnik.
When contacted, Karnik said he was not aware of any FIR against him. “I have not been contacted by police yet,” he said. In his letter to the CP on October 29, Jaganatharao claimed they were falsely implicated and wrongfully arrested. It said that the police had issued false and misleading statements to the media to defame them. ‘The URLs of blogs of a closed forum were placed in public forums out of context in the FIR. We had been arrested two months after the complaint was filed. During the period, we were not even summoned to the police station,’ it stated.
When contacted, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Himanshu Roy said the police had arrested the two only after complete inquiry into the matter. “The two had used hundreds of abusive, perverted and sexually explicit quotes. We had taken legal opinion before arresting the two,” said Roy. He said the two have raised the objections six months after their arrest. When the police had presented the two in court, their lawyer had not objected to the allegations against them, he added.
Responding to the duo’s complaint that their posts were made in a private forum, JCP Roy said, “The IT Act does not differentiate between a personal and public forum... based on this, the sections applied on them were appropriate.”