Delhi High Court grants transit anticipatory bail to Prashant Kumar Umrao for tweet on alleged attack against Bihar migrants in Tamil Nadu

The High Court of Delhi on Tuesday granted 10-day transit anticipatory bail to lawyer and BJP Spokesperson for Uttar Pradesh, Prashant Kumar Umrao over a tweet he posted, which alleged that migrant workers from Bihar were being attacked in Tamil Nadu for speaking in Hindi. 

The Single-Judge Bench of Justice Jasmeet Singh granted transit anticipatory bail to the Delhi-based lawyer on the grounds that the applicant should be given reasonable time to approach the territorial jurisdictional court. 

The Tamil Nadu Police had lodged an FIR against Umrao under Sections 153 (provocation for rioting), 153A (Promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860.

Appearing for the State of Tamil Nadu, Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde contended that there were serious charges against Umrao. 

He submitted that Umrao had a ‘history’ of making tweets that incited violence and then deleting them without any clarification. Hegde further said that the Freedom of Speech did not mean that one could light fire to a crowded theatre. 

However, Justice Singh said the court could not go into the merits of the case.

The petition filed by Umrao, the Standing Counsel for the State of Goa in the Supreme Court, contended that he himself had become a victim of fake news and only published the tweet to raise concerns regarding the news, which was being covered by prominent news agencies and personalities. 

The tweet was based on an article published by various news agencies, which stated that migrant labourers from Bihar were being killed in Tamil Nadu for speaking Hindi. 

As per the plea by Umrao, Alt News had reported that multiple unrelated videos had gone viral after migrant labourers were attacked in Tamil Nadu.

The BJP leader said he had posted a tweet on February 23 in good faith to address the plight of migrant workers. 

Umrao had shared a picture of Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin in his tweet. The tweet said, "15 people of Bihar were hanged in a room in Tamil Nadu for speaking Hindi and 12 have sadly died. After that, Tejaswi Yadav shamelessly celebrated the birthday party with Stalin in Tamil Nadu".

The petition said after the news was fact checked by certain agencies, it was revealed that the video clips shared on social media platforms pertained to a different time period and did not relate to any incident related to the violence upon migrant workers in Tamil Nadu.

It was also found out that the news regarding the Bihari migrant workers hanged to death for speaking Hindi was fake, it added.

While Umrao deleted the tweet, he claimed in court that he was innocent and was made a scapegoat. He also claimed that he had become a victim of political rivalry.

The petition further submitted that Umrao’s right to liberty would stand violated at the hands of the State of Tamil Nadu if he was arrested without any reasonable opportunity to avail his legal remedies owing to his residence in Delhi.