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Man held on sedition charge for FB post over power cuts in Chhattisgarh

Rajnandgaon | A 53-year-old man has been arrested and charged with sedition in Chhattisgarh for allegedly spreading rumours on social media over power cuts in the state, police said Friday.

The accused identified as Mangelal Agarwal was arrested on Thursday evening under IPC sections 124 A (sedition) and 505 (1) (2)(intent to incite) following a complaint filed by Chhattisgarh State Power Holding Company Limited (CSPHCL), a police official said.

Agarwal was produced before a local court Friday and remanded to 5-day judicial custody. The police action sparked condemnation with the opposition BJP accusing the state government of trying to suppress freedom of expression.

Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel later stepped in and directed the police to withdraw the sedition charge against Agarwal., according to a state government release.

On June 12, the power company lodged a complaint with City Kotwali police station in Rajnandgaon town that a video had gone viral on social media in which an unidentified man was deliberately spreading rumours and false information in a bid to tarnish the image of the Congress government.

In the video allegedly posted by Mangelal, a native of Musra village under Dongargarh police station area, on his Facebook account, he is heard saying, “The Bhupesh Baghel-led government and Madhya Pradesh government have allegedly colluded with inverter manufacturing companies to increase its sales by doing frequent power cuts in the respective states.”

In the purported video, Mangelal said inverter companies had allegedly given money to the Chhattisgarh government to cut power supply 10 to 15 minutes every 2 hours.

“As the frequency of power cuts will increase so will the sales of the inverter. This news is true because in Delhi there was a meeting of inverter companies with the state government…,” he purportedly said in the video.

The CSPHCL in its complaint said an attempt was made to spread hatred against the state government and disrespect it through the video. The mobile through which the video was recorded has been seized, the official said.

“While the Congress had promised to repeal the sedition law, the party itself is now misusing it to implicate and threaten the common man. If spreading rumours is such a big offence, then several Congressmen should have been put behind bars. Congress was elected to power through false campaign only,” said Santosh Pandey, a BJP MP from Rajnandgaon Lok Sabha seat.

“The people of the state have been bearing the brunt of frequent power cuts. It is a failure of Congress. When people are opposing it, then in frustration, the Congress government has taken such action,” Pandey added.

Chairman of the five state power companies, Shailendra Kumar Shukla, appealed to the people not to believe in such false propaganda over power cuts.

“Personnel of the state’s power generation, transmission and distribution companies have been engaged to ensure regular power supply to consumers. People should not believe in such false news and rumours regarding the power cuts which can be due to natural phenomenon like storms or other local reasons,” he said.

Chhattisgarh State Electricity Board was restructured into five companies – distribution, generation, holding, transmission and trading, in 2008. Shukla is chairman of all five companies.

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