Updated: February 10, 2021 1:18:08 am
The Supreme Court Tuesday stayed the arrest of Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and journalists Rajdeep Sardesai and five others facing criminal cases over tweets regarding the death of a protester in the Republic Day violence in the national capital during a tractor rally by those protesting against farm laws.
Issuing notice on a plea by them challenging the FIRs filed in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India S A Bobde said that “in the meantime, there shall be stay of arrest of the petitioners”.
Besides Sardesai, police had booked journalist Mrinal Pandey and editors of the Caravan magazine for allegedly misreporting and spreading disharmony.
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Tharoor, urged the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, to protect the petitioners from coercive steps in the interim on the basis of the FIRs.
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“Please protect me till the period of notice. Investigating agency is now in Delhi. They can arrest me. Section 124 has been added now,” said Sibal.
Following the submission, the CJI asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, “Are you going to arrest them?”
“I’m before your Lordships…We know our responsibility,” Mehta replied and requested the court to hear the matter Wednesday. But the bench said it will hear it after two weeks and went on to stay any likely arrest.
Appearing for the Caravan editors, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi said no religious sentiment has been hurt and that “it was a January 26 report on some person being shot and then we corrected it to something else”.
Countering this, the S-G said, “We can show what horrendous effect these tweets have had. These twitter handles have lakhs of followers.”
The petitioners are facing FIRs in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh over “misleading” tweets on the violence and death of the protester on January 26.
According to the FIRs, they allegedly tweeted that the protester Navreet Singh died in police firing. Singh had suffered head injuries when his tractor toppled after hitting a police barricade and according to authorities, his post-mortem report ruled out any bullet injury.
Most of the FIRs invoke IPC sections for sedition, criminal intimidation, promoting enmity, provocation to break public peace, criminal conspiracy, outraging religious feelings, among others.