- Delhi Police filed cases against Shashi Tharoor, journalists over tweets
- They've been accused of posting misleading posts on Republic Day violence
- FIRs have been filed against them in five states
The Supreme Court today barred any agency from arresting Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and six journalists in cases relating to their tweets in connection with the Republic Day tractor rally violence in New Delhi. The cases will be taken up for hearing two weeks later, the court said.
While Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Delhi police, opposed any relief and wanted the case to be adjourned to tomorrow, defence counsel Kapil Sibal sought an order saying "no coercive action till the Supreme Court takes up the case".
"We are issuing notice...nothing is going to happen," the three-judge bench of Chief Justice Sharad A Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian said. It was hearing petitions filed by Mr Tharoor, along with those of journalists Rajdeep Sardesai, Mrinal Pande, Zafar Agha, Vinod K Jose, Paresh Nath, and Anant Nath, seeking the quashing of police cases against them.
All were charged for their tweets under laws related to sedition, promotion of enmity, and criminal conspiracy. They had been accused of posting false, misleading posts accusing the Delhi police of killing a farmer during the tractor rally in the national capital on Republic Day.
First information reports have been filed against them in five states: Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, and Karnataka. The court has issued notices all these states, apart from the Centre itself on this matter.
"The journalists have been specifically targeted for reporting the accounts pertaining to the death of one of the protestors on their personal social media handles as well as those of the publications they lead and represent. It must be noted that on the day of the protest and high action, several reports were emerging from eyewitnesses on the ground as well as from the police, and therefore it was only natural for journalists to report all the details as they emerged. This is in line with established norms of journalistic practice," the Editors Guild had said in a statement on the cases filed against them.
On January 26, thousands of protesting farmers clashed with the police during the tractor rally in protest against new farm laws. Hundreds of protesters had entered the Red Fort and clashed with the police.
Addressing the court today, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said, "These tweets had horrendous effects on the Republic Day."
Mr Sibal, on his part, said the defendants did not want "coerceive action." To a query from the bench as to "where was the danger" of such action, he replied: "Investigative agencies are in Delhi. May arrest them."