The Supreme Court on Thursday granted interim bail to Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera hours after his dramatic arrest from the Delhi airport, after being taken off a flight to Raipur over an alleged insult to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“There has to be some level of discourse, we are protecting you,” Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud said, hearing the Congress petition against cases registered in Uttar Pradesh and Assam. The Congress contended in the apex court that it was a “slip of tongue” and Khera had apologised. The Supreme Court accepted the party’s request to club all the FIRs against him.
The apex court issued notices to the states of Assam and Uttar Pradesh seeking their responses on Khera’s plea seeking clubbing of multiple FIRs lodged against him at Assam, Lucknow and Varanasi for his alleged remarks against the prime minister.
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Earlier, Khera was deplaned from an Indigo flight to Raipur, where he was going to attend the party’s plenary session. Several party leaders got off the plane after Khera was deboarded and staged a dharna on the tarmac.
As drama escalated at terminal one of the domestic airport in New Delhi, flight staff told Congress leaders there was confusion with Khera’s bags. They said the police were on their way and would explain the reason to him.
“He was detained by the Delhi Police on a request by the Assam Police. We were just extending support to them. The arrest has been made by them,” a senior Delhi Police officer said.
Later, Khera was arrested from Delhi airport by Assam Police in connection with a case.
A case has been registered against Congress leader Pawan Khera at Haflong police station in Assam’s Dima Hasao district
A team of Assam police left for Delhi to take remand of Pawan Khera in connection with the case: Prasanta Kumar Bhuyan, IGP L&O and Spox of Assam police pic.twitter.com/2rZ9JmpekO
— ANI (@ANI) February 23, 2023
IndiGo said the passenger was deplaned by the police and it is following the advice of concerned authorities.
In a statement, the airline said, “The flight is delayed as of now and we regret the inconvenience caused to other passengers.”
“A passenger was deplaned by the police at the Delhi airport from Raipur-bound flight 6E 204. Some other passengers have also decided to deboard on their own accord,” it added.
Several Congress leaders raised slogans against the government while on the tarmac.
“We are all on the @IndiGo6E flight 6E 204 to Raipur and all of a sudden my colleague @Pawankhera has been asked to deplane,” Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate, who was also on the flight, said on Twitter.
We are all on the @IndiGo6E flight 6E 204 to Raipur and all of a sudden my colleague @Pawankhera has been asked to deplane
What sort of high handedness is this? Is there any rule of law? On what grounds is this being done and under whose order?
— Supriya Shrinate (@SupriyaShrinate) February 23, 2023
“What sort of high handedness is this? Is there any rule of law? On what grounds is this being done and under whose order?” she said.
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The flight was delayed. “The BJP is acting out of fear and wants to block our plenary session because of the successful Bharat Jodo Yatra of Rahul Gandhi,” alleged Congress leaders. The ED had last week conducted searches on Congress MLAs in Chhattisgarh over allegations of money laundering.
Modi govt is acting like a bunch of goons by deplaning @Pawankhera ji from the Delhi-Raipur flight and preventing him from joining the AICC Plenary.
Using a flimsy FIR to restrict his movement & silence him is a shameful, unacceptable act. The entire party stands with Pawan ji. pic.twitter.com/mKVeuRGnfR
— K C Venugopal (@kcvenugopalmp) February 23, 2023
#WATCH | “We will see (in which case they are taking me). It’s a long battle and I’m ready to fight,” says Congress leader Pawan Khera as Delhi Police takes him after he was deboarded from an aircraft at Delhi airport pic.twitter.com/cKXeo6kSb4
— ANI (@ANI) February 23, 2023
Case in Assam
A case has been registered at Haflong police station in Assam against Khera under various sections of the IPC, including 153 B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national interest), 500 (punishment for defamation) and 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace), for his alleged remarks against the prime minister.
Dima Hasao Superintendent of Police Mayank Kumar told PTI that one Samuel Changsan filed a complaint on Wednesday at Haflong police station over Khera’s comments on Modi and other issues. “His (Khera) comments against the PM is one part of the FIR. There are other complaints also. The case is registered under several sections of the IPC,” the SP said.
Kumar said that the sections are non-bailable and a police team has already gone to the national capital to investigate the case.
Trinamool Congress national spokesperson Saket Gokhale was earlier arrested in December for a tweet endorsing an alleged fake news report about Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Gujarat’s Morbi town after the collapse of a suspension bridge in October.
Gokhale was detained at Jaipur in Rajasthan, taken to Ahmedabad and finally flown to Assam before getting a bail.
(with agency inputs)