The Assam Police on Wednesday arrested regional news portal Pratibimba Live’s Editor-in-Chief Taufiq Uddin Ahmed, news editor Iqbal and four others for allegedly sharing a photograph of Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma with “salacious intent”, and maligning his image, The Indian Express reported.
Ahmed and Iqbal, along with two other employees of Pratibimba Live, Puli Muchchary associated with Bodoland Digital and Nang Noyonmoni Gogoi from Spotlight Assam, were booked under Section 509 (intending to insult the modesty of any woman) of the Indian Penal Code and various sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.
The charges against them are related a photograph Partibimba Live carried in an article that showed the Bharatiya Janata Party leader hugging a girl. The website did not mention that the girl was Sarma’s daughter, a minor, the police said.
The photograph went viral on social media, following which Sarma took to Twitter and clarified that the girl in the picture was his daughter. The website later apologised, and blamed others for sharing the photo with the intent to defame Sarma, according to PTI.
Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) GP Singh Singh told The Indian Express that a complaint was lodged by a family member of the politician, besides several others in various police stations in different parts of the state.
“Initial FIRs have been registered under these sections but we are investigating and additional charges may be added if they come to the fore,” he said. Of the six arrests, four were made in Guwahati, one in Golaghat and the other in Sivasagar, he added.
In a series of tweets, Singh said the photograph was an “attempt to malign familial bond”. He said Ahmed and Iqbal were taken into custody to “investigate the conspiracy” behind airing such news.
The police officer also warned against “posting such pictures with malicious intention”, saying the Assam Police would take strong action under stringent provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.
“As a man in public life and father of two daughters, I take strong exception to people maligning father-daughter bond,” he said. “Action shall be taken against all persons irrespective of their place of residence who use any of the social media platforms to maliciously use such platforms for furthering this conspiracy.”
Meanwhile, Sarma said the photograph posted with a malafide intent was disturbing and his family “could not sleep the whole night” because of it. It is evident that this was a case of “political conspiracy”, Sarma said. “But to stoop so low and not spare even my minor daughter, reflects a very low mentality.”
He added: “I have been attacked on all fronts by my opponents but when they failed to create any impact, they have adopted a different strategy to malign my character and I have been noticing this recently.”