‘Has to be some level of discourse’: SC grants interim bail to Pawan Khera for remarks against PM

Supreme Court of India.
Supreme Court of India. File/ GK

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday has extended protected Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera from arrest for now, ruling that he will be released on interim bail upon production before a magistrate in Delhi and the interim relief is till Tuesday.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud told senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Khera: “We have protected you but there has to be some level of discourse...”.

The top court will hear Khera’s plea to club all FIRs at one place.

The bench, also comprising Justices M.R. Shah and P.S. Narasimha, said: “In order to protect the petitioner until such date as he applied for regular bail before jurisdictional court, till the next date of listing, petitioner shall be released on interim bail by magistrate.”

Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, representing the Assam Police, argued that Khera did not make the statements by mistake and that he “consciously insulted the PM, who is an elected leader of the largest democracy in the world”. Bhati played the video to buttress her arguments.

Singhvi urged the apex court to protect Khera from further coercive steps and added that this should not happen under any stretch of circumstances for one sentence.

He argued that any amount of political speech, they cannot invoke Section 153A of the IPC. Bhati argued that factually, Khera has been arrested and he will be taken for medical examination and will be produced before the court.

She pressed that the court will have to see the entire video of the press conference and then it will be apparent where it was a mistake or remarks were made deliberately. Bhati argued that it is the demeanour in the video which counts.

During the hearing, the bench asked Bhati: “You tell us prima facie how 153A is made out?” Bhati said the entire press conference has to be seen and it is a derogatory remark made, to incite disaffection against the PM.

Singhvi said this is deliberate harassment by having three FIRs in two states and his client has already apologised, adding Khera would tender his unconditional apology for his remarks on PM.

According to the Assam Police, an FIR had been registered against Khera at the Haflong police station in Dima Hasao district.

“Delhi Police was approached to arrest Khera and the Assam Police officials will bring him to Assam after taking permission from a local court,” said the official of Assam Police.

Delhi Police had earlier said that Khera was stopped from boarding the flight following a request by their Assam counterparts.

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