The bench observed that the arrest and remand were illegal, resulting in deprivation of personal liberty.
NEW DELHI — The Supreme Court of India has ordered, on Tuesday, the immediate release of journalist Prashant Kanojia who was arrested on Saturday from New Delhi for sharing a post against UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath.
On the same day, a TV channel head and its editor were also arrested from Noida for airing defamatory content against UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
A plea was moved by Jageesha Arora, wife of journalist Prashant Kanojia in the Supreme Court on Monday challenging her husband’s arrest by the Uttar Pradesh Police.
Kanojia shared a video of a Kanpur-based woman making allegations against Adityanath. He was picked up from his Delhi home on Saturday morning and sent to jail in the evening. The woman has also been arrested.
The Supreme Court reportedly said that a case for arrest of the journalist not made out. “The police can proceed against him, but arrest? No,” the court said.
The vacation bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and Ajay Rastogi passed the order in a habeas corpus petition filed by Jageesha Arora seeking his release. The bench observed that the arrest and remand were illegal, resulting in deprivation of personal liberty.
Even though the UP Government submitted through Additional Solicitor General Vikramjit Banerjee that arrest was necessary “to send a message” that provocative tweets cannot be tolerated, the bench rejected it, choosing to bat for personal liberty, according to livelaw.in.
Jageesha, who was represented by Advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan, approached the Court saying, “The alleged post on its face value constitutes no criminal offence and is an unwarranted assault on the free speech and right to life.”
The UP police defended Kanojia’s arrest and said he had made inflammatory tweets in the past too. “He has been making inflammatory tweets in the past not only with respect to caste matters but also gods and goddesses and that’s why he was arrested,” said additional solicitor general Vikramjeet Banerjee.
But the bench was not convinced.
The court asked the counsel “where is the mischief made out”. “We need not comment on the nature of the posts for which the action has been taken, the question is whether, Kanojia ought to have been deprived of his liberty. The answer to that question prima facie is negative,” said a bench of justices Indira Banerjee and Ajay Rastogi.
According to livelaw, the Court also expressed astonishment at 11 days remand ordered by the Magistrate. “Is he accused of murder?”, Justice Rastogi wondered.
The ASG replied that there were SC precedents that remand orders cannot be challenged in habeas corpus petition and that the proper remedy was to seek bail from lower courts.
The bench was not to be moved by this technical objection. It said that Article 142 of the Constitution have SC powers to do “complete justice”.
“If there is glaring illegality, we cannot fold our hands and ask to go to lower courts”, the bench said.
The other two journalists Ishika Singh and Anuj Shukla, channel head and editor respectively of news channel Nation Live, which had discussed the news about woman claiming to be having a relationship with the UP CM were also arrested the same day.
Massive outrage is pouring in social media against the arrests.
Editors Guild condemned the arrests and said in a statement that “it as an effort to intimidate the press and stifle freedom of expression.”
The Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI) also condemned the arrest of Prashant Kanojia, Ishita Singh and Anuj Shukla and called it serious clampdown on not just their fundamental rights but also the constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and expression and demanded the immediate release of the three arrested.