Congress media group chairman Pawan Khera (54) was on Thursday granted an interim bail by a Dwarka court here on the orders by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud on an urgent plea by senior party leader and senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi.
He was free hours after he was forced to deplane by an Assam Police team from a flight to Raipur for the Congress plenary starting scheduled for Friday. The interim bail is up to February 28.
Why was he arrested?
His crime: Distorting the name of Prime Minister Narendra Damodar Das Modi by calling his father Gautam Das instead of Damodar Das to link Modi with billionaire industrialist Gautam Adani in a Press conference in Mumbai on Monday.
Singhvi, who was already in the Supreme Court, told the 5-judge Constitution Bench hearing the Shiv Sena case that it was a play of words which Khera should have personally avoided. It was a "slip of tongue," said Singhvi, adding that he had made a mistake and he has apologised.
An Additional Solicitor General present in the court said he has already directed the Magistrate court to release him on interim bail when the Assam Police produced him before the jurisdictional court.
An unprecedented order by the Chief Justice of India set him free on bail.
After hearing the argument in the court, the Supreme Court order stated that the petitioner is the chairperson of media and publicity department of the Indian National Congress. The court noted that Pawan Khera held a press conference in Mumbai and on February 20, a complaint was lodged in Lucknow for offences under Sections 153a, 500, 504, 505A of the Indian Penal Code. On February 22, another FIR was registered in Varanasi.
All FIRs to be clubbed
The Supreme Court noted that the plea filed by Pawan Khera was not for quashing of FIR, but was pressed for “clubbing of FIRs since gravamen of all FIR is same”.
The CJI ordered clubbing of all cases filed against Khera across the country to take it up on Monday. He accepted that Khera has apologised and would tender an unconditional apology to those who have filed the FIRs. Khera's colleague Singhvi mentioned his arrest when the CJI told him to mention it at 3 PM.
Khera's lawyers said they are not pressing to quash the FIRs since there are multiple complaints and hence they are seeking an interim relief.
High voltage drama at IGI airport
There was a high drama at the airport as about 50 Congress leaders and workers, led by AICC general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala who also deboarded with Khera.
Sharing visuals of Khera being escorted into a bus, Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate said, “He’s beingtaken into the bus. Randeep Surjewala is going with him. They are being taken by the Assam Police. Isn’t this dictatorship? Is this the reality of your right to freedom to speech?”
Khera and other senior Congress leaders had already entered the IndiGo flight for Raipur when he was told to deboard on the excuse that his lugguage required a check, though he was carrying only a handbag in the flightand no other lugguage. He was handed over by Delhi Police to the Assam Police, which arrested him.
Controversy around JPC demand
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has been demanding Khera's arrest over allegedly insulting PM Modi's late father. His video clip that angered the BJP was: "If Narasimha Rao could form a JPC (Joint Parliamentary Committee), if Atal Bihari Vajpayee could form a JPC, then what problem does Narendra Gautam Das...sorry Damodardas...Modi have?" he said, appearing to confirm the middle name with a Gautam Adani. The BJP insists that Khera's fumble was deliberate.
An IndiGo spokesman said: "A passenger was deplaned by the police at the Delhi airport from Raipur-bound flight6E 204. Some other passengers have also decided to deboard on their own accord. We are following the advice of the concerned authorities. The flight is delayed as of now and we regret the inconvenience caused to other passengers." The passengers were moved to another flight.
A Delhi police spokesman said a request was received from Assam Police for assistance to arrest accused Pawan Khera. "Based upon the same, local assistance was provided and upon the requisition of Assam Police, accused Shri Pawan Khera was detained from Terminal 1 of the IGI Airport and has been subsequently arrested by the Investigating Officer (IO) concerned of Assam Police.”
Prasanta Kumar Bhuyan, Inspector General of Police (L&O), in Guwahati said a case against Khera was registered at the Haflong Police Station of the state’s Dima Hasao on Wednesday. “Accordingly, we have registered a case and deputed a team to Delhi to bring Pawan Khera for further interrogation. Right now, our team is in Delhi airport, being assisted by CISF and Delhi Police. They are doing necessary formalities,” he said.
The complaint was filed by one Samuel Changsan, who described himself as a ‘social worker’. “According to the complainant, Khera had made some objectionable remarks about the Prime Minister a few days back, and there he was trying to vitiate the communal harmony in the society…that is the content of the FIR,” said Bhuyan.
The FIR has been registered under the following sections: 120 B, 153 A, 153 B (1), 500, 504, 505 (1) (2). There are also other FIRs against him in Delhi, Lucknow and other places.
Venugopal: Modi govt acting like goon
AICC General Secretary (Organisation) KC Venugopal, who was also accompanying the group to Raipur, said that the Modi Government is acting like a bunch of "goons" by deplaning Pawan Khera.
"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 and silence him is a shameful, unacceptable act. The entire party stands with Pawan ji," he tweeted.
"The dictatorial, hateful and anti-democratic face of the Modi government is in front of the country! In a conspiracy to stop the Congress session by taking democracy hostage in broad daylight.. The entire system of BJP has crossed all limits of shamelessness! But we will fight against such cowardly acts," said Surjewala.
AICC General Secretary (Communications) Jairam Ramesh was the first to note the objectionable remark of Khera and distance from it saying nobody should insult late father of the Prime Minister in this manner.
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