Delhi HC grants pre-arrest bail to BJP leader booked in Tamil Nadu for fake news

Mar 07, 2023 01:13 PM IST

Cases have been lodged over the posting of unverified information amid rumours of attacks on migrant workers in Tamil Nadu

The Delhi high court on Tuesday granted pre-arrest bail till March 20 to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and lawyer Prashant Umrao in connection with a case registered against him in Tamil Nadu for spreading fake news about migrant workers from Bihar.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and lawyer Prashant Umrao.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and lawyer Prashant Umrao.

Umrao was booked over a tweet in which he said Bihar deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav met Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin despite the “attacks” on the migrants. He shared a picture of the two leaders at celebrations of Stalin’s birth celebrations while claiming 12 migrants from Bihar were “hung to death” in Tamil Nadu for speaking Hindi. Umrao later deleted the tweet.

Justice Jasmeet Singh of the high court did not go into the merits of the case while giving Umrao time for availing legal remedy before a court in Tamil Nadu’s Tuticorin. He asked Umrao to share his contact number and google pin with the Tamil Nadu Police.

Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, who appeared for the Tamil Nadu Police, opposed Umrao’s plea for pre-arrest bail. But justice Singh said reasonable time should be given to Umrao to avail legal remedies.

Hegde said Umrao is the standing counsel for Goa. “He is a man of some standing. Freedom of speech does not mean you light fire to a crowded theatre. He has a continual record of making such tweets and then deleting them without even a clarification.”

Hegde called the charges against Umrao grave and said he should have approached the Tuticorin court first. He added there are direct flights to nearby Thiruvananthapuram and one stopover flights to Tuticorin.

“Even now he may consider apologising and retracting. There is nothing more anti-national than breaking India up and forcing migrant workers out.”

Umrao’s lawyer, Kushal Kumar, argued for ample time to approach the courts in Tamil Nadu while also citing the language barrier.

The cyber-crime division of greater Chennai police has lodged cases under the Indian Penal Code sections, 153, 153A(1)(a), 505(1)(b), and 505(1)(c), which deal with promoting disharmony, enmity, and feelings of hatred between different groups, over the posting of unverified information amid rumours of attacks on migrant workers.

Five first information reports were filed on Saturday in the matter including against Umrao.

Stalin as well as the Tamil Nadu Police clarified there were no attacks on migrant workers and insisted false videos were being circulated.

A team of bureaucrats and police officers from Bihar visited Tamil Nadu to ascertain the truth. A meeting was held on Sunday in the Tiruppur district, where a large number of migrant workers are employed in the garment industry.

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