SC or­ders re­lease of journalist Prashant Kanojia

Says right to liberty is ‘non-ne­go­tiable’

The Hindu Business Line - - VARIETY -

Di­rect­ing the im­me­di­ate re­lease on bail of journalist Prashant Kanojia, ar­rested for al­legedly mak­ing ob­jec­tion­able com­ments on so­cial me­dia against Ut­tar Pradesh Chief Min­is­ter Yogi Adityanath, the Supreme Court on Tues­day said that fun­da­men­tal right to liberty is “sacro­sanct” and is “non-ne­go­tiable”.

The apex court clar­i­fied how­ever that grant­ing bail to Kanojia can­not be con­strued as ap­proval of his posts or tweets.

The or­der has been passed in “view of the ex­ces­sive­ness of the action taken”, it said, mak­ing it clear that the pro­ceed­ings against the journalist will go on as per the law.

The top court slammed the Ut­tar Pradesh gov­ern­ment for ar­rest­ing the scribe and ob­served that fun­da­men­tal right guar­an­teed un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion can­not be in­fringed upon by the State.

“May be, we don’t ap­pre­ci­ate these tweets, but the ques­tion is whether he should be be­hind bars for these so­cial me­dia posts,” it said after pe­rus­ing the tweets.

‘De­pri­va­tion of liberty’

It was a “glar­ing case of de­pri­va­tion of liberty” as Kanojia has been re­manded to al­most twoweek ju­di­cial cus­tody for putting up so­cial me­dia posts or tweets, said a va­ca­tion Bench of Jus­tices Indira Ban­er­jee and Ajay Ras­togi.

The Bench was hear­ing a habeas cor­pus pe­ti­tion (a writ for pro­duc­ing a per­son who is un­der ar­rest or in un­law­ful de­ten­tion be­fore a court) filed by Kanojia’s wife, Jag­isha Arora, chal­leng­ing his ar­rest.

“We di­rect that the pe­ti­tioner’s hus­band be im­me­di­ately re­leased on bail on con­di­tions to the sat­is­fac­tion of the ju­ris­dic­tional Chief Ju­di­cial Mag­is­trate. 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,” the bench said in its or­der.

The ‘of­fence’

Kanojia had al­legedly shared a video on Twit­ter and Face­book wherein a woman is seen speak­ing to re­porters out­side the Chief Min­is­ter’s of­fice in Luc­know, 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 last Fri­day in which it was al­leged that ac­cused made “ob­jec­tion­able com­ments against the CM and tried to ma­lign his im­age”.

The Bench also ob­served that even courts have to bear the brunt of so­cial me­dia. “Some­times even we have to suf­fer the brunt of so­cial me­dia. Some­times it is just and some­times it is not, but we have to exercise our pow­ers.”

It said the court need not com­ment on the na­ture of the posts or tweets for which action has been taken against the journalist.

“The ques­tion is whether the pe­ti­tioner’s hus­bandPrasha­nt Kanojia ought to have been de­prived of his liberty for the of­fence al­leged. The an­swer to that ques­tion is prima fa­cie in the neg­a­tive,” the Bench noted in its or­der.

“The fun­da­men­tal rights guar­an­teed un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion and in par­tic­u­lar Ar­ti­cles 19 (free­dom of speech and ex­pres­sion) and 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Con­sti­tu­tion of In­dia are non-ne­go­tiable,” it said.

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