The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed the arrest of Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and senior journalists including Rajdeep Sardesai, who were named in multiple FIRs for their tweets or reports about a farmers’ death during the tractor parade on Republic Day.
A bench led by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde granted the relief to the accused, including journalists Vinod K Jose, Mrinal Pande, Zafar Agha, Anant Nath and Paresh Nath, and also issued notice on their writ petitions. The court will consider the petitions after two weeks.
The charges levelled against Tharoor and others include those of sedition and criminal conspiracy, as per the FIRs filed by the police in multiple states, including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, and Haryana.
According to legal news website Livelaw, the bench was initially reluctant to grant interim protection from coercive action, but senior advocate Kapil Sibal persuaded it finally.
On being the asked whether arrest was being planned, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who is representing Delhi Police, requested for a posting on Wednesday. But the Chief Justice of India said it will be heard after two weeks and stayed their arrest.
Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Jose, submitted that the FIRs were baseless, but the SG interjected saying the tweets in question could have “horrendous effect”. The bench said the parties can have their argument on the returnable date and issued notice.
The FIRs registered against Tharoor and the senior journalists allege “misreporting” and “spreading disharmony” on Twitter in connection with the death of a farmer during January 26 violence, in which thousands of protesting farmers had clashed with the police. The rally called by farmer unions to highlight their demand for revocation of the Centre’s farm laws.
One person died during the violence that day and allegations were raised that he was shot dead. However, the official version is that he died after his tractor overturned. Many media outlets too claimed a bullet injury was seen on the deceased’s head. But the post-mortem ruled out any bullet injuries, according to the police.