Saturday, May 18, 2024

Supreme Court refuses to quash criminal case against Congress leader Pawan Khera for botching up PM Modi’s name

The Supreme Court has refused to quash the criminal case registered against Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera for his remark against Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a press conference in Uttar Pradesh.

A bench comprising Justices BR Gavai and Sandeep Mehta said that an offence cannot be wished away just by offering repeated apologies in other defamation matters.

Senior Advocate Salman Khurshid, who was there on behalf of Pawan Khera asked for time to file a rejoinder, the bench said it was not inclined to entertain the matter.

Appearing for the State of Uttar Pradesh, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that with the chargesheet ready, the trial must proceed.

On October 16, the Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the UP government regarding criminal proceedings initiated against Khera for giving a derogatory statement about Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Bench of Justice BR Gavai and Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra passed the order on a special leave petition filed by Khera challenging the Allahabad High Court order, which refused to quash criminal proceedings against the Congress leader over his alleged “Narendra Gautam Das Modi” comment made at a press conference in Mumbai.

On the last occasion, Khera’s counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi argued that the comment had been made inadvertently and a prompt apology had been issued in a separate post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Taking the court through the charges levelled against Khera, which included defamation, attempting to degrade and destabilise the nation, promoting enmity and hatred between different groups, and disturbing public peace, the Senior Advocate said this was not the intention at all. They have completely stretched it, he added.

On April 7, the Allahabad High Court had sought response of the Uttar Pradesh government on Khera’s plea. The Bench of Justice Sangeeta Chandra and Justice Narendra Kumar Johari issued notice to the state government and private respondents, directing them to file counter affidavits by May 4, the next date of hearing.

The development followed the March 20 order of the Supreme Court, wherein the Apex Court clubbed the FIRs against Khera at Varanasi and Assam and transferred them to Hazratganj Police Station in Lucknow. 

Khera moved the High Court seeking quashing of the FIRs and stay on investigation in the cases.

The High Court observed that in its order of March 20, the Supreme Court had already given interim protection to the Congress leader and also the option of applying for regular bail before the jurisdictional court. Therefore, there was no need to grant any interim order as of now.

Senior Advocate J.N. Mathura, appearing for Khera, apprised the High Court that in the FIR registered at Assam, the informant, respondent no 6, had invoked several Sections. However, the Investigating Officer had issued a notice to the petitioner under Section 41 (A) of CrPC only under Sections 153-A, 153-B(1)/ 500/504/505(1)(b)/505(2) IPC, directing him to make his statement.

Noting that after the removal of Sections 295 and 120-B from the purview of investigation, there seemed no imminent threat of arrest to the petitioner, the Counsel said the investigation, however, itself be quashed as it was oppressive and not made out from a bare perusal of the allegations made in the FIR.

On February 23, Assam police had arrested Khera from Delhi airport over his comment against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

The Congress leader moved the Apex Court the same day, which granted him interim relief till February 28 and stated that he should be released on interim bail on production before the jurisdictional Magistrate at Delhi. 

The interim bail was later extended to March 3, March 17 and later to April 10.

(Case title: Pawan Khera vs State of UP and Others)


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