NEW DELHI, Feb 23 (PTI): The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered that Congress leader Pawan Khera, arrested by the Assam Police for his alleged remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, be released on interim bail till February 28.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud said that upon being produced before the competent magistrate in Delhi, Khera would be released on interim bail.
“The above order will remain operational till Tuesday (February 28),” the bench, also comprising Justices M R Shah and P S Narasimha, said and listed the matter for February 27.
The apex court issued notices to the states of Assam and Uttar Pradesh seeking their responses on Khera’s plea seeking clubbing of multiple FIRs lodged against him at Assam, Lucknow and Varanasi for his alleged remarks against the prime minister.
Senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for Khera, said the Congress leader had apologised for his remarks on the Prime Minister on the very same day and the offences alleged against him in these FIRs do not require arrest.
He said the choice of words used and the sections invoked against him do not match the offences alleged.
“It will have a straightaway impact on the latitude of free speech,” Singhvi said.
Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the Assam Police, played the audio-video clip of the alleged remarks in the open court and said Khera cannot use such “derogatory words” against a democratically elected prime minister of the country.
Earlier in the day, Khera was arrested at the Delhi airport after being deplaned from a flight to Raipur in connection with his alleged remarks against Modi, made at a press conference on February 17 at Mumbai. The Delhi Police said he was detained at the request of the Assam Police.
A PTI report from Guwahati/Haflong adds: A police case was registered against Khera in Dima Hasao district for his alleged remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and a team has already been sent to New Delhi for a probe, a senior officer said on Thursday.
The Congress leader was on Thursday arrested by the Assam Police after a complaint was lodged by Hen Samuel Changsan against Khera at Haflong police station.
Dima Hasao superintendent of police Mayank Kumar told PTI that Changsan filed a complaint against Khera on Wednesday for his comments on PM Modi and other issues.
Changsan is a BJP leader and currently an executive member of the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council.
“His (Khera) comments against the PM form one part of the FIR. There are other complaints also. The case was registered yesterday under several sections of the IPC,” the SP said.
Kumar said a police team has already gone to New Delhi to investigate the case.
Changsan in his complaint alleged that Khera’s remarks at a press meet on February 17 were not only “insulting, defamatory and derogatory” to Modi and his deceased father, but also “provocative” to BJP workers and the PM’s followers.
The Congress leader also “intentionally” caused a “breach of public peace, with an intent to incite violence and disturb peace and tranquility in the society” and the statements were made to “cause public mischief”, the FIR alleged.
Reacting strongly to the police action, Assam Congress chief Bhupen Kumar Borah criticised the Assam Police and the ruling BJP.
“What sort of high-handedness is this? Is there any rule of law? On what grounds is this being done and under whose order?” asked the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee President.
In a similar manner, Congress MLA Jignesh Mevani, an Independent MLA then, was arrested by Assam Police on April 19 last year from Palanpur in Gujarat and was brought to the border district Kokrajhar in the Northeastern state for tweeting against the Prime Minister.