Youtuber assault case: Anticipatory bail pleas rejected

A district court here on Friday rejected the anticipatory bail plea of dubbing artiste Bhagyalakshmi and two other women activists indicted for the physical attack on "abusive" YouTuber Vijayan. P. Nair.

Principal Sessions and District Judge K. Babu, who heard their petition, said the court could not encourage vigilantism. The judiciary was constitutionally bound to uphold the rule of law. The court could not allow self-appointed groups to dispense justice without legal authority.

The police had earlier booked the women, including activists Diya Sana and Sreelakshmi Arackal, on the charge of barging into the room of Nair and assaulting him for "uploading" a slanderous video purportedly about Bhagyalakshmi on his widely watched and highly controversial blog.

Public prosecutor, Vembayam Hakkim, who opposed the bail plea, termed the attack on Nair as an unlawful act of vendetta and personal payback.

The women had recorded the assault on camera, disseminated the footage widely on social media and also shared it with television channels. Releasing the accused on bail could provoke copycat acts of vigilantism in society, he argued.

The police had booked the women on the charges of criminal trespass, assault, verbal abuse and theft. (The accused had allegedly appropriated the laptop and mobile phone used by Nair and later surrendered the devices to the police.)

The high profile incident, amplified by social media and television news channels, had triggered a protracted and, in some measure, polarising debate on gender equations in Kerala.

It had also raised the question of whether the activists had staged a demonstrative political act against misogyny or attempted to justify physical assault, rather ill-advisedly, as a righteous and definitive form of retribution against abusive persons.

Several left leaders had expressed solidarity with the women activists. Kerala State Women’s Commission chairperson M. C. Josephine had pointed out that assaults on the dignity and person of women were on the increase and many abusers often exploited their social media reach to defame their victims. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said that protests should always be within the bounds of law and vigilantism did not augur well for society.

The women activists are likely to move the High Court for anticipatory bail.

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