SC orders release of journalist Prashant Kanojia

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the immediate release on bail of journalist Prashant Kanojia who was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Police for publishing an “objectionable” tweet on Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

Kanojia’s wife Jagisha Arora moved the apex court on Monday challenging her husband’s arrest.

A vacation bench comprising Justices Indira Banerjee and Ajay Rastogi said: “We disapprove deprivation of liberty of the journalist by the state’s action to arrest him.”

The court observed that Article 32 which is itself a fundamental right cannot be rendered nugatory in a glaring case of deprivation of liberty in this case, “where the jurisdictional magistrate has passed an order of remand till June 22, which means Kanojia would be in custody for about 13-14 days for putting up posts/tweets on the social media,” observed the court while rapping the UP government on Kanojia’s arrest.

The court asked the Uttar Pradesh government to show its magnanimity and the principle of forgiveness, and pulled up the state counsel.

“We live in a country which has a Constitution, and it is one of the best in the world,” said the court, rubbishing the Uttar Pradesh state counsel’s arguments justifying Kanojia’s arrest.

The counsel argued that Kanojia, through his social media posts, has infringed on somebody’s right, but the court rebutted that it cannot be justified by putting a person behind bars.

“The question is that he is behind the bars… and we disapprove of any act leading to deprivation of liberty,” observed the court.

The court added: “We direct that petitioner be immediately released on bail on conditions put by the trial court. It is also to be clear that this order should not be construed as an approval of his tweets/posts on social media… We do not appreciate harsh action.”

The UP government counsel opposed this observation by the court on various technical grounds including that there is an order of remand passed by the jurisdictional magistrate.

The UP government counsel argued that Kanojia should have moved the higher court concerned for relief instead of moving to the apex court.

“We are not inclined to sit back on technical grounds. In exercise of power under Article 142 of the Constitution of India this court can mould the reliefs to do complete justice. We direct that the petitioner’s husband be immediately released on bail on conditions to the satisfaction of the jurisdictional Chief Judicial Magistrate,” the court said.

Kanojia was picked up by the Uttar Pradesh Police from Delhi on Saturday, his family members said. Though, his formal arrest was shown from Lucknow. Reportedly, the Uttar Pradesh Police took action suo motu in this case.

Terming the arrest of Kanojia as a glaring example of deprivation of liberty, the apex court rapped the state counsel stating Kanojia was not arrested under a murder charge.

Kanojia’s wife challenged the action of the police in the apex court and has sought issuance of Habeas Corpus. The court noted that liberty of a citizen is sacrosanct and non-negotiable, as it is guaranteed by the Constitution and it cannot be infringed.

The petition claims some people in civil dress picked up Kanojia and allegedly did not produce any warrant of arrest. The petitioner alleged that the Uttar Pradesh Police did not seek transit remand from any Delhi court, but went ahead with the formal arrest in Lucknow.

Advocate Nithya Ramakrishnan mentioned the matter before a bench of Justices Banerjee and Rastogi on behalf of Arora and had sought urgent hearing terming the arrest “illegal and unconstitutional”.

The top court had agreed to hear the plea on Tuesday. The Uttar Pradesh Police had registered an FIR on June 7 at Hazratganj police station in Lucknow under various provisions of the IPC and the Information Technology Act.

Kanojia made satirical comments on Adityanath purely based on the alleged claim of a woman that she was in regular touch with the Chief Minister via video conferencing.

The court also pulled up the journalist for posting and sharing objectionable statements and posts on social media, and said that the state is allowed to go ahead with the investigation against him and conduct trial.

“It is made clear that this order is not to be construed as an approval of the posts/tweets in the social media. This order is passed in view of the excessiveness of the action taken,” observed the court.


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