- Prashant Kanojia given bail by Supreme Court three days after arrest
- Court made it clear that "order is not construed as approval of tweets"
- Right to liberty, a fundamental right, is non-negotiable, the court said
Journalist Prashant Kanojia, who was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police for "defaming" Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, must immediately be released, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday. The right to liberty, a fundamental right, is non-negotiable, the court said as it granted bail.
"It is made clear that this order is not construed as an approval of tweets," the top court said.
The Supreme Court was hearing a petition by Mr Kanojia's wife Jagisha Arora, challenging his arrest on Saturday. "Normally we don't entertain these type of petitions. But a person can't spend 11 days in jail," the Supreme Court said.
Mr Kanojia is likely to walk out of jail tomorrow after his bail bond will be produced.
Five people, including Mr Kanojia, were arrested in two days on charges of posting allegedly objectionable content about the Chief Minister. The arrests over the weekend sparked a huge debate on social media on freedom of expression in the country, with the Editors Guild of India terming the journalists' arrests "high-handed and arbitrary". The editors' body had said it amounted to "authoritarian misuse of laws".
"We may disapprove these tweets but we disapprove the denial of liberty," the top court said.
"I believe in Constitution. I have fought this case. I am happy," a visibly emotional and tired Jagisha Arora told reporters outside the Supreme Court, soon after the hearing.
The Uttar Pradesh government opposed any relief to Prashant Kanojia, saying he must approach the High Court. The state government said he was arrested not for his latest tweet on Yogi Adityanath but for his older tweets which were "casteist".
Prashant Kanojia, a freelance journalist, was arrested by Uttar Pradesh police in Delhi on Saturday for a tweet that had "objectionable comments" on Yogi Adityanath. Mr Kanojia, was picked up from his home in Delhi after a complaint by a police officer in Lucknow, alleging he tried to "malign" Yogi Adityanath's image. He had shared a video on Twitter and Facebook where a woman is seen speaking to reporters of various media organisations outside Yogi Adityanath's office, claiming that she had sent him a marriage proposal.
The wife had alleged that Prashant Kanojia was taken away from his home by policemen in plain clothes.
The same evening, the head of a private news channel and its editor were arrested in Noida. During a debate on the channel on June 6, the woman, whose video was shared by Prashant Kanojia, had allegedly made defamatory statements against Yogi Adityanath, the police said.
Two more people were arrested in Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, the Chief Minister's stronghold, on Sunday evening. According to a tweet by police, one man was arrested after a complaint against him was received on Twitter. He was arrested for posting "objectionable content" about the BJP leader.