In Jail for a Month Over Post 'Criticising' Sharad Pawar, Actor Likely to Walk Out Today

District judge H.M. Patwardhan granted bail to Ketaki Chitale on June 22.

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New Delhi: More than a month after she was arrested over a social media post on Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, a court in Thane district of Maharashtra granted bail to Marathi actor Ketaki Chitale.

District judge H.M. Patwardhan granted bail to Chitale on Wednesday, June 22, against a surety of Rs 20,000.

With this, Chitale will be able to walk out of the Thane central jail, where she is currently lodged, on Thursday, her advocates Yogesh Deshpande and Ghyanshyam Upadhyay have said.

On May 14, 2022, Thane police arrested Chitale for sharing on Facebook a Marathi verse, which allegedly referred to NCP chief Sharad Pawar in a “derogatory” way.

Chitale’s Facebook post, as The Wire has reported earlier, makes no direct mention of the NCP chief’s full name but mentions the surname ‘Pawar’ and the age of 80. Pawar is 81 years old. Comments like “hell is waiting” and “you hate Brahmins” are part of the post that allegedly criticises him.

Police at Kalwa in Thane had charged her under section 505 (2) (statements conducting to public mischief), 500 (defamation), 501 (printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory) and 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc) of the Indian Penal Code.

Complainant Swapnil Netke had alleged that the post was “likely to lead to a trouble between political parties.”

Upadhyay had argued against the police’s claim of having issued Chitale a notice under Section 41A of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), meant in the case of offences that attract up to seven years of jail, was farcical since such a notice was only given to the actor minutes before her arrest. Times of India has reported that the judge appeared to agree with this claim, according to the lawyers.

The 29-year-old actor is currently facing over 20 FIRs regarding the Facebook post.

Last week, a court in Mumbai granted bail to Chitale in another case registered against her under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in neighbouring Navi Mumbai in 2020.

On the same day when Chitale was arrested, a student Nikhil Bhamre was also arrested against FIRs for a post against Sharad Pawar.

In his tweet, Bhamre had allegedly said that the time had come to create “Baramati’s Nathuram Godse for the Gandhi of Baramati”. He had, however, not mentioned the name of any leader or political party in the tweet.

Hearing Bhamre’s plea, the Bombay high court on June 13 had pulled up the Maharashtra government and asked if the government would take cognisance of every tweet it deems offensive.

“There are hundreds and thousands of tweets everyday. Will you take cognisance of each and every tweet? We do not want FIRs like these. …Unheard of… some student is kept in custody like this,” the bench said.

(With PTI inputs)