The Odisha government Tuesday announced that it will not pursue cases registered against defence analyst Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, who has been in Jharpada jail for around 40 days for allegedly making derogatory remarks against the state’s history and culture.
“Taking into account his representation, the government have decided not to accord sanction of prosecution in cases where prosecution has been sought for and also decided to take steps to withdraw other cases pending against him by following laid-down procedures,” the press release said.
Iyer was arrested on October 23 after two FIRs – one each in Konark and Bhubaneshwar – were filed against him for an alleged sarcastic video and comments on the Konark Sun Temple that he posted on Twitter on September 16. The police invoked Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion), 295A and 298 (criminalising acts or words uttered intended to outrage or wound the religious feelings of any individual or class), and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the IPC against him.
The Home Department has clarified that the decision followed an appeal made by Iyer-Mitra ‘to accept his apology and contrition’ in having wounded the sentiments of people of Odisha without intention. Sources in Odisha Police said he had addressed a letter to Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Chief Secretary Aditya Padhi begging forgiveness.
A source in Bhubaneswar’s Jharpada Jail told The Indian Express that Iyer-Mitra was on Saturday night shifted to Bhubaneswar’s Capital Hospital after reporting ill health to the jail authorities. “It was a minor complaint regarding his digestive tract, but the jail doctor also recommended examination in the hospital”, the source said.
“He has not been eating properly for here weeks. He ingests solids and vomits. At Capital Hospital, he is not in a position to take liquids”, said counsel Nikhil Mehra.
Iyer-Mitra had applied for bail with the Odisha High Court on November 15. A previous application for bail had been rejected by a magistrate. Later, another application was also rejected by a Sessions Judge on November 08.
On November 17, an Odisha House committee set up to probe charges of breach of privilege against Iyer-Mitra, who had allegedly made derogatory remarks against legislators of the state, recommended that the matter be dropped on grounds of “magnanimity”.
When the committee was formed, Leader of Opposition in Assembly Narasingha Mishra told The Indian Express, “The MLAs discussed this gentleman’s (Abhijit) derogatory remarks about Konark and Puri. In retaliation, he said something like ‘all MLAs in the Odisha Legislative Assembly are idiots’. It is a way of putting pressure on MLAs so that they don’t criticise him. That amounts to breach of privilege.”