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The man responsible for putting Payal Rohatgi in jail

By SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF
December 17, 2019 14:39 IST

'You can't go on insulting our freedom fighters with lies on social media.'

Former Big Boss contestant Payal Rohatgi was arrested and sent to judicial custody -- till December 24 -- by a local court in Rajasthan on Monday, December 17.

A day earlier, Rohatgi had been detained from her residence in Ahmedabad by a Rajasthan police team in connection with a case relating to posting of allegedly objectionable content about the Nehru-Gandhi family on social media.

Rohatgi has been booked under relevant sections of the IT Act and the Indian Penal Code, including that which deals with insulting with intent to provoke a breach of peace.

She had posted objectionable content on her social media pages on September 6 and 21 against Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and other members of the Nehru-Gandhi family, following which Rajasthan Youth Congress General Secretary Charmesh Sharma submitted a complaint along with copies of the offensive comments, after which the case was registered against Rohatgi.

"False information and false news has to be stopped. The law must intervene," Sharma tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com.

 

What was your case against Payal Rohatgi?

She insulted the womenfolk of the political leaders who participated in India's freedom movement. She spoke about them very badly in her video. I cannot even tell you that in detail. She insulted Kamala Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru's wife, in her video post.

When Pandit Nehru was in jail she contracted tuberculosis and she could not get proper treatment. She died soon after, at the age of 36. Payal Rohatgi in her video questioned Kamala Nehru's character.

In the past too, Rohatgi has made controversial social media posts. So why did you go to the police this time?

I had no idea about her earlier posts. This was the first time this video came to me on social media and therefore I filed the case.

What about freedom of expression, which Congress MP Shashi Tharoor says needs to be respected?

The court in its decision said freedom of expression is not unlimited. The court dismissed Payal Rohatgi's petition. You cannot say bad things about freedom fighters on social media by lying.

You cannot throw muck about the personal lives of freedom fighters, and that too all lies.

Do you mean that it would have been okay had she criticised the Nehru-Gandhi family regarding their politics?

You can criticise someone about their politics. I have no problem with Payal Rohatgi if she criticises the Congress about their policies or their politics. But you cannot go on insulting our freedom fighters when it comes to their personal lives, with lies on social media.

Young Indians are on social media and they get influenced by this wrong propaganda about our freedom fighters.

Do you know Payal Rohatgi personally?

I heard she was an actress. Payal Rohatgi is followed by 8.5 lakh people on Facebook. And if she gets 5,000 likes on social media, then the fake news becomes viral. So that is not right.

I can understand her criticising Jawaharlal Nehru or Motilal Nehru, but why drag in Kamala Nehru? What wrong has she done?

You cannot question her (Kamala Nehru's) personal character. She was a very religious person.

But the message being sent out is that one can't criticise the Nehru-Gandhi family and if you do so, you will go to jail.

The court agreed with my petition and said you cannot have unrestricted and unlimited freedom in the name of freedom of expression.

If I am not mistaken, didn't Rohatgi claim she was quoting from M O Mathai's controversial book on Jawaharlal Nehru?

But she could not bring that book in court. Today if you see on Google there are lot of wrong things written about Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but then you cannot go and start saying wrong things on social media about him just because it is on Google.

But do people believe what Rohatgi says? Nobody believes such lies, so why go to the police?

These days, people have started believing more in blind beliefs.

Now people come to pay their tributes to even those who have killed Mahatma Gandhi. Therefore, these things need to be stopped.

False information and false news has to be stopped. The law must intervene.

I have nothing personal against Payal Rohatgi.


Syed Firdaus Ashraf covers national affairs for Rediff.com. He can be contacted at firdausa@rediff.co.in

SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF / Rediff.com
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