The Supreme Court on Tuesday has stayed the arrest of Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, journalists Rajdeep Sardesai, Vinod Jose, Mrinal Pande, Ananth Nath, Zafar Agha and Paresh Nath, while hearing the petition challenging the multiple FIRs filed against them for allegedly sharing misinformation on the death of a protester during the tractor rally on Republic Day.
The bench comprising Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, Justice A.S. Bopanna and Justice V. Ramasubramanian issued notice in the plea seeking to dismiss the FIRs lodged against them over tweets and reports on the Republic Day tractor rally.
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the petitioners, insisted for protection from coercive steps taken against the petitioner till the notice period. He said, “Please protect me till the period of notice. Investigating agency is now in Delhi. They can arrest me. Section 124 has been added now.”
Chief Justice Bobde asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta whether he will arrest the petitioners. To which, he replied that he may not be able to make an assurance for all the petitioners.
To this, CJI Bobde responded that the petitions will be considered after two weeks.
Appearing for the editor of Caravan, Paresh Nath, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi submitted that multiple FIRs filed against him are baseless as there is no case of hurting religious sentiments. SG Mehta then said the tweets have had a horrendous effect since they had lakhs of followers.
However, the Court said it will stay the arrests meanwhile, and issued notice in the matter returnable in two weeks. Tharoor and Sardesai had moved the Supreme Court against the FIRs filed against them for misleading farmers and spreading false information during farmers’ tractor rally in Delhi on January 26, Republic Day.
Journalists Mrinal Pande, Zafar Agha, The Caravan’s Paresh Nath, and Anant Nath have also filed separate pleas against the FIRs in the same matter.
Sardesai on January 26 had tweeted about protester Navreet Singh’s death. He claimed that Singh died because of being shot by Delhi Police. Later, Sardesai apologized and deleted his tweet.
Later on the same day, Sardesai shared a video on his Twitter handle. He said the protesters claim that the deceased Navneet Singh was shot at by Delhi Police, while the video shows the tractor overturned while trying to break through police barricades. The farm protesters’ allegations don’t stand, Sardesai had tweeted.
FIRs had been filed against Tharoor and five other journalists in five different states on the same matter. Earlier, Tharoor and six journalists were booked by the Noida Police for sedition, among other charges, over the violence during the farmers’ tractor rally in Delhi.
The FIR in Delhi was lodged on a complaint of advocate Chiranjiv Kumar, a Central government lawyer at Delhi High Court. Similar FIR was filed against the petitioners by the Gurugram police following a complaint by one, Pankaj Singh, who has accused them of having spread false information.