Even judges have to face the brunt of social media, the Supreme Court said Tuesday while hearing the case of journalist Prashant Kanojia, arrested for allegedly making "objectionable comments" on Twitter and Facebook against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
"Sometimes even we have to suffer the brunt of social media. Sometimes, it is just and sometimes it is unjust but we have to exercise our powers," a vacation bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and Ajay Rastogi said while ordering immediate release of the journalists on bail.
"Show your magnanimity," the bench told Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Vikramjit Banerjee who was appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government, adding that "the question is only about deprivation of citizen's liberty".
The bench made these observations while hearing a habeas corpus petition (a writ for producing a person who is under arrest or in unlawful detention before a court) filed by Mr Kanojia's wife, Jagisha Arora, challenging his arrest.
Mr Kanojia had allegedly shared a video on Twitter and Facebook wherein a woman is seen speaking to reporters of various media organisations outside the chief minister's office in Lucknow, claiming that she had sent a marriage proposal to Yogi Adityanath.
A First Information Report was registered against Mr Kanojia by a sub-inspector at the Hazratganj police station in Uttar Pradesh on Friday night in which it was alleged that accused made "objectionable comments against the CM and tried to malign his image".
During the hearing, the government's lawyer told the bench that it should clarify in its order granting bail to Mr Kanojia that it does not accord approval to the tweets or posts made by the journalist on social media.
"Do not worry about what is being written or construed on social media. Nowadays, people are knowledgeable and aware and they know in what context things are being said," the bench said, adding, "It is very wrong to think that whatever posted (on social media) will be accepted by the public. People are educated".
It further said: "Certainly granting bail would not mean approving his tweets/posts on social media and our remarks would not affect the court proceedings, which will go on in accordance with the law."
The bench also observed that its order is not the approval of the action of the journalist but it is the disapproval of the "state's action which deprives citizen's right to liberty".
The habeas corpus petition has also sought departmental action against the policemen, who were allegedly not in uniform, for arresting Mr Kanojia from Delhi for "bailable offences".
The bench, which directed that Mr Kanojia be immediately released on bail, said that fundamental right to liberty is "sacrosanct" and "non-negotiable".