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Pawan Khera's arrest, release on interim bail: What happened at Delhi airport?

Feb 23, 2023 07:06 PM IST

On February 17, while addressing a press conference in Mumbai, Khera referred to the prime minister as 'Narendra Gautamdas Modi'.

Congress leader Pawan Khera was arrested by Assam Police Thursday in controversial fashion; he was de-boarded from an IndiGo flight to Raipur by Delhi Police and detained till their colleagues from the northeastern state arrived to arrest him over allegedly derogatory remarks about prime minister Narendra Modi. Khera was on his way to the Chhattisgarh capital for a Congress plenary. Within hours the Congress and Khera had approached the Supreme Court, where chief justice DY Chandrachud granted him interim bail and protection from arrest till Tuesday; the court will hear Khera's plea to club FIRs against him - one in Assam and two in Uttar Pradesh - on Monday. Hours after that a Delhi court granted bail to Khera on a bond of 30,000.

Congress leaders staged a protest at the Delhi airport after the police deplaned and detained party leader Pawan Khera on Thursday. (AICC)

READ | Pawan Khera held in Delhi airport over case filed by Assam BJP leader

Why was Pawan Khera arrested by Assam Police?

On February 17, while addressing a press conference in Mumbai, Khera referred to the prime minister as 'Narendra Gautamdas Modi'. He appeared to correct himself after conferring with a colleague.

The press conference was to flag the Congress' demands for a parliamentary inquiry into allegations about the Adani Group by United States-based short-seller Hindenburg Research.

The remark led to an outcry from BJP leaders who claimed an insult to Modi. Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma slammed Khera as a 'courtier' and said the remarks showed a Congress 'full of entitlement and disdain…'

LIVE COVERAGE | Cong leader released after Delhi court's interim bail

"India will not forget or forgive these horrible remarks of Congressmen."

The Congress hit back today with spokesperson Randeep Surjewala demanding to know if the Assam leader - on whose instructions police said they were acting when they arrested Khera - is 'God'.

What happened on IndiGo flight 6E-204 to Raipur?

Shortly before the plane was to depart, carrying Khera and several of his colleagues, including Supriya Shrinate and Surjewala, to the Congress' meeting in Raipur, Khera was asked to de-board. He was told of a 'problem' with the airline tag on his luggage. Khera later said he had no check-in bags.

READ | 'Your bag has a wrong tag': How Pawan Khera was taken into custody

After he exited the plane - to furious protests by other Congress leaders, who staged a dharna on the tarmac of Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport - Khera was told he could not leave because a DCP-rank police officer (deputy commissioner of police) was en route to arrest him.

He told reporters he waited for several minutes before officials from both Delhi and Assam Police arrived. All this time Congress leaders continued protests on the tarmac, and IndiGo was forced to de-board all passengers and re-route the others to their destinations via different flights.

READ | Passengers on Khera’s flight asked to de-board, to be re-routed

As Khera was finally led away by Assam Police protests on the tarmac increased, and opposition lawmakers from other parties, including Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and former Puducherry chief minister V Narayanasamy spoke out in support of the Congress leader.

BJP v Cong war

Meanwhile, the BJP (predictably) hit back at the Congress' protests, declaring they ought not to live under the 'misconception' they are above the law.

"Whatever is done is done lawfully. Congress leaders should not live under this misconception that they are above the law," the BJP's Gaurav Bhatia said.

In the Supreme Court

The action then shifted to the Supreme Court, where the chief justice had agreed to an urgent hearing; a bench led by DY Chandrachud ruled firmly in favour of Khera and the Congress. Significantly, the chief justice also said there had to be 'some level of discourse'.

READ | CJI Chandrachud to Khera: 'Have protected you but there has to be…'

The court then said Khera would have to be released by a Delhi magistrate today and that he would have interim bail and protection from arrest till after it has heard his plea to club all FIRs.

With input from agencies

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