The easiest form of oppression is sending people to jail when they make alleged remarks against you, and given the slow pace of justice in India, proving the contrary makes one guilty all the same.
The recent Hindenburg Report has caused an uproar in the country, and the opposition has called for an investigation into what could be the biggest scam to cloud the Modi Government since 2014.
Pawan Khera from Indian National Congress was arrested because Khera referred to the Prime Minister as “Narendra Gautamdas Modi” when he recently spoke at a press conference in Delhi to call for an inquiry by a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) into the Gautam Adani Group.
“If Narasimha Rao could form a JPC (Joint Parliamentary Committee), if Atal Bihari Vajpayee could form a JPC, then what problem does Narendra Gautam Das…sorry Damodardas…Modi has?” he said, confirming the middle name with a colleague. This statement was made by Pawan Khera, which led to FIR being filed, and BJP alleged this comment was deliberate.
Samuel Changsan, a BJP member in Assam, then went to the police to report the Congress leader. On Wednesday, Dima Hasao, an official of the Haflong police station, registered an FIR.
Khera was charged with various violations like Indian Penal Code Sections 120 B (criminal conspiracy), 153 A, 153 B (1) (promoting hostility based on religion, race, place of birth, etc.),),505 (1) (2) (statements conducing to public mischief), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), and 500 (defamation).
He was removed from a flight bound for Raipur at the Delhi airport, sparking a political uproar. IndiGo said police removed the passenger, and it is now acting on the advice of the relevant authorities.
The drama started when Khera was asked to deplane after most passengers had boarded. Along with Khera, several Congressmen got off the plane and set up a dharna on the tarmac. Later, senior members of the Delhi Police presented them with a document from the Assam Police requesting their assistance in apprehending Khera.
Congressman Randeep Surjewala escorted Khera to a police station at the airport in which a sizable contingent of CISF was stationed. As the protest continued, the airline staff requested passengers to disembark and escorted them back to the terminal.
Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera was granted temporary release from custody on Thursday by the Supreme Court after being arrested by Assam and Uttar Pradesh (UP) Police for allegedly making disparaging remarks about Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi at a press conference.
Khera stepped off a flight at the Delhi airport headed for Raipur in Chhattisgarh while en route to an All India Congress Committee(AICC) meeting. He was taken into custody by the Assam Police on Thursday due to an FIR that had been filed against him.
Khera approached the top court on Friday, and a bench consisting of Justices P.S. Narasimha, M.R Shah, and Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y Chandrachud ordered the Delhi court to grant Khera relief.
Khera’s representative, senior attorney Abhishek Manu Singhvi, claimed that numerous FIRs had been filed against him. Khera’s petition for their consolidation was denied, but S.C. did order that interim bail is granted. It also notified the states of Uttar Pradesh and Assam, where FIRs have already been filed against him.
Senior Attorney A.S Singhvi, who appeared on behalf of Khera, informed the court that Khera had apologized and claimed the remarks resulted from a “slip of the tongue.”
However, the clampdown on free speech and speaking against the government or the Prime minister himself is getting opposition leaders arrested, which led Khera to ask if this is a Banana Republic.
“We are inclined to consider the plea that is limited to the question of whether or not the FIR should be combined. In the case of Arnab Ranjan Goswami, such a course of action was taken. We also acknowledge that the spoken words do not correspond to the sections cited in the FIR when taken at face value. As a result, we decree that notice be given regarding the request to transfer and club all FIRs filed against Khera. According to Bar and Bench, the order stated, “Notice to Assam and the State of UP.” as stated by the Supreme Court.
His arrest prompted Congress to question the ruling party about the validity of the arrest and why no action was taken against its leaders who have made remarks that have incited violence and gone scot-free.
Granting interim is a great sign of democracy because the Supreme Court has set a precedent for similar cases. Given the sensitive nature of the Adani case, where the BJP government is silent while the company stocks have gone down, this interim bail granted to Khera has raised the hope for an investigation into the Gautam Adani case.
Pawan Khera has always been a powerful critic of the BJP and speaks with facts supporting his statements. The interim bail granted to him will give him more confidence and make him question the government, which is what makes India a democracy.
The repercussions of this arrest and bail on the upcoming assembly elections and the highly anticipated 2024 General elections are yet to be seen. However, this might be a leeway that Congress might need to ride on after the successful completion of the Yatra. It is yet to be seen.
The Interim bail order for Pawan Khera is nothing short of a ray of light for the people seeking justice. With many instances of renowned spokespersons granted bail by making derogatory remarks without an ounce of shame, there is an acknowledgment that the mistake made is indeed brave.
Congress can breathe a sigh of relief with the release of its favorite and bold spokesperson who makes the views and voice of the party heard in the noise of drowning opinions.
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