New Delhi: As the Supreme Court granted bail to journalist Prashant Kanojia, a vindicated Uttar Pradesh opposition called it a “tight slap” on the “Taliban-style harassment” of the Yogi Adityanath government, but bureaucrats and police officials either justified their actions or passed the blame for the arrests from one official to another.
The BJP accepted the ruling, saying “the decision of the Supreme Court is accepted by all”.
“The law is taking its course but objectionable comments against the CM are not acceptable. The words used by Prashant Kanojia were quite bad,” said Dr Chandramohan, BJP state spokesperson.
In the government ranks, some even tried to spin the Supreme Court’s observations as supporting Uttar Pradesh’s stand.
“We are not disappointed with the order. The SC has said that he should be granted bail but it has also said that they do not support the tweet and the legal action on it should continue to take place,” said a senior government official.
The official then quickly added that “it is better that those who have registered the case comment on the matter”, referring to the state’s police department that had lodged a case against Kanojia for “objectionable” post against CM Yogi Adityanath.
While saying that the Right to Liberty was non-negotiable, a vacation bench of the Supreme Court, hearing a plea filed by Kanojia’s wife, observed Tuesday that the bail did not mean it approved of the journalist’s tweets or posts on social media.
The sections invoked included sections 500 (criminal defamation) of the IPC and 66 (computer-related offences) and 67 (punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form) of the Information Technology (IT) Act, and Section 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the IPC.
Following Kanojia’s arrest, at least six others, including two journalists, had been arrested in various parts of UP for the same crime.
Opposition lashes out
“The order of the immediate release of journalist Prashant Kanojia is a tight slap on the Yogi government,” said Samajwadi Party legislator Sunil Singh Sajan.
“To hide their failures, the Yogi government has come down to threatening the media, and harassing them Taliban-style,” he added. “We thank the Supreme Court for strengthening public confidence.”
Leaders of the Congress said the state police department was working as Yogi Adityanath’s B-Team.
“The problem is that the BJP does not tolerate opposition from the people,” said Congress state spokesperson Anshu Awasthi. “This is against the freedom of expression. Democracy is essential in India. Today, it was Prashant, tomorrow it will be someone else’s turn,” he added. “Let’s see if the Yogi government learns something from the Supreme Court’s bashing.”
UP Director General of Police O.P. Singh told The Print that he had not received a copy of the SC judgment yet.
“Whatever little I have got to know till now is that they (SC) haven’t quashed the FIR… All that they have said is slightly disproportionate punishment (was meted out),” he said. “That means he should not have been in jail for such a long time. He was remanded in judicial custody for 14 days.”
Singh said the court did not criticise the sections invoked in the case. “They have not said that the legal sections invoked were wrong or that the imprisonment was bad… The court did not approve of the tweet. All these things have gone in favour of the state government,” he said.
“They ultimately said that the liberty of the individual is very important and it (punishment) should not have been so disproportionate,” Singh added. “So, yes, we do agree (with the judgment). After all, the Supreme Court is the ultimate temple of justice and we accept it with all respect.”
He also said the content of the social media posts, which featured the video of a woman who claimed to be Adityanath’s lover, was “malicious”, “not in tune with the rule of law”, and violative of some sections of the IT Act.
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