New Delhi: The Supreme Court has extended protected Congress leader 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 lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who is representing Pawan Khera.
The Supreme Court will hear Khera’s plea seeking clubbing of all FIRs at one place. Justice M.R. Shah and Mr. 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”. Also Bhati played the video to buttress her arguments.
Abhishek Manu Singhvi urged the apex court to protect Pawan Khera from further coercive measures, adding that this should not happen under any circumstances of the verdict. He argued that no amount of political speech can invoke Section 153A of the IPC. Bhati claimed that indeed Khera has been arrested and will undergo a medical examination and be taken to court. He emphasized that the court should see the entire video of the press conference to determine what went wrong or whether these statements were made intentionally.
During the hearing, the bench asked Bhatti, “Can you tell me, prima facie, how 153A is constructed?” Bhatti said the press conference has to be watched in its entirety and said it was a derogatory statement to incite resentment against the prime minister.
Singhvi said the harassment was deliberate with three FIRs in two states and his client has already apologised, while Khera has issued an unconditional apology to the prime minister for his remarks.
According to Assam Police, an FIR has been registered against Pawan Khera at Haflong police station in Dima Hasao district. “Delhi police have been approached to arrest Khera and Assam police officials will bring him to Assam after obtaining permission from the local court,” an Assam police official said.
The Delhi Police had earlier said that Pawan Khera was prevented from boarding the flight at the request of their counterparts from Assam. After Khera was stopped from boarding the plane, Congress leaders and workers staged a protest at the airport. CISF personnel were deployed to deal with the situation.
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