Karnataka bid to stifle dissent suffers setback; court acts against police, judge

Karnataka bid to stifle dissent suffers setback; court acts against police, judge

After the police following an uproar recently dropped a sedition case against 49 celebrities for raising the issue of mob-lynching, similar attempts to target dissent received another setback when the Karnataka high court on Friday (October 11) penalised the state government, the police and a magistrate for illegally arresting an individual over a social media post.

According to reports, the detainee, a Bengaluru resident named Jayakanthan, in a social media post called “Troll maga” criticised the Gowda family including the former prime minister H D Deve Gowda and his son, former chief minister H D Kumaraswamy.

An FIR was filed against Jayakanthan following a complaint by a Janata Dal (Secular) functionary S P Pradeep Kumar. However, the accused was granted anticipatory bail on June 10 by a sessions court.

When the accused arrived at the Srirampura locality police station to execute the bail on June 17, the last day by which he should do it, the police told him to come the next day. On June 18, the police issued a notice stating he had violated the bail condition by not approaching the police within the one week time given to him.

The police then filed another FIR similar to the first one – this time based on a complaint by another JD(S) functionary B Raviraj. The police arrested Jayakanthan and produced him before another magistrate. When the accused informed the magistrate about the anticipatory bail, the court reportedly disregarded it and sent him to jail.

High court judge, Justice P S Dinesh Kumar ordered that Jayakanthan be released and directed an enquiry be held against the concerned police officers and the magistrate for flouting the guidelines of the Supreme Court in such matters where it has been stated that anticipatory bail granted to an individual should be honoured.

The court ordered the Karnataka government to pay ₹one lakh to Jayakanthan. It however allowed the government to retrieve the cost from the concerned police officials.

“The actions of the police lead to an irresistible inference that a deliberate attempt was made by the police that the petitioner be somehow detained,” The Hindu newspaper said, quoting the court order.

The order, according to the newspaper, also stated that “the magistrate should have carefully scrutinised the papers and special care was required by the magistrate as petitioner was granted bail in the first case.”

The high court order comes at a time when complaints are being filed and cases registered against individuals who criticise the government, political parties, their leaders and their actions.

In the latest instance, the mere act of writing an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing concern over mob-lynching led to filing of an FIR against the letter-writers (49 renowned individuals) in addition to being heavily trolled on social media by government supporters. Eventually, the police decided to drop the FIR following a nationwide uproar.

Another notable case was that of a Manipuri journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhemcha who, last December, was sent to jail for a year under the draconian National Security Act (NSA) for criticising the BJP-led state and central governments. The Manipur high court eventually ordered his release in April this year.

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