The Supreme Court Monday agreed to hear tomorrow the plea challenging the arrest of journalist Prashant Kanojia, accused of making objectionable comments against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on social media. A vacation bench comprising justices Indira Banerjee and Ajay Rastogi took note of the submission of lawyer Nitya Ramakrishnan, appearing for Kanojia's wife Jagisha Arora, that the plea needed urgent hearing as the arrest was "illegal" and "unconstitutional".
Arora has filed a habeas corpus petition (bring the person) challenging the arrest of Kanojia and sought a direction to Uttar Pradesh police to set him free without any delay. In the petition, filed through lawyer Shadan Farasat, the wife of the vernacular scribe has also sought initiation of the departmental action against the policemen, who were not in uniform, for arresting Kanojia from Delhi for allegedly committing "bailable offences".
The plea has also sought "exemplary damages" for Kanojia for his "illegal arrest". "The Hindi journalist was unceremoniously taken away by men in civil dress on June 8 from his Delhi residence. It transpires that on June 7, police officials of Police Station Hazaratganj at Lucknow had lodged an FIR against him under sections 500 (criminal defamation) of the IPC and 66 of the Information Technology (IT) Act and both offences are bailable," the plea said.
The police were bound to release Kanojia in Delhi itself as per the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure as the offences alleged were bailable, it said, adding that the accused should have been granted bail on his arrest by the police itself. "No arrest memo was prepared and neither the petitioner nor her husband was told as to why he was being taken and why the 'arresting officials' were in civil dress," it said.
Two provisions -- section 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the IPC and section 67 (Punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form) of the IT Act -- were added later as earlier the FIR contained only bailable offences, it said. These penal provisions prescribe maximum sentences of two and three years jail term respectively. Kanojia had allegedly shared a video on Twitter and Facebook where a woman is seen speaking to reporters of various media organisations outside the chief minister's office claiming that she had sent a marriage proposal to Adityanath.
An FIR was registered against Kanojia by a sub-inspector at the Hazratganj police station in Uttar Pradesh on Friday night in which it was alleged that the accused made "objectionable comments against the CM and tried to malign his image".
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