SC clubs FIRs against Pawan Khera in Lucknow; protection from arrest till Apr 10
Khera had approached the court on Feb 23 after he was arrested by Assam police from Delhi airport after an FIR was registered against him at Haflong police station in the state
The Supreme Court on Monday directed all criminal cases against Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera for his comment against Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be clubbed at Hazratganj police station in Lucknow and extended protection from arrest in all cases till April 10 by after which he can approach the Uttar Pradesh court for bail.
Khera had approached the court on February 23 after he was arrested by Assam police from the Delhi airport after an FIR (first information report) was registered against him at Haflong police station in the state.
Also Read: PM Modi remark row: Assam, UP oppose Pawan Khera’s plea to club, transfer FIRs
The court ordered interim bail and had sought the response of the Assam and Uttar Pradesh governments where three FIRs in connection with the same incident was pending against Khare.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud noted that the first FIR was lodged on February 20 at Hazratganj and on the same day another FIR was lodged at Varanasi against Khare. However, the Assam FIR was registered two days later.
“We order and direct the FIRs registered at PS Cantt, Varanasi and PS Haflong shall stand transferred to PS Hazratganj,” said the bench, also comprising justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who appeared for the two state governments insisted that the case be clubbed at Assam since the arrest took place in the Assam.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi was not present for Khera when the matter was taken up.
Advocate Abhishek Jebraj who represented Khera requested the court to take up the matter on Monday.
He said, “We want the cases transferred to Delhi for a fair trial. The complaints in the three FIRs were filed by members belonging to the political party in power in the two states.”
The court clarified, “We will not transfer to Delhi” but agreed to continue the protection from arrest granted on February 23 and extended on two later occasions to remain in operation till April 10.
The bench said, “The interim order of this court (extended by order of February 27 and March 3) shall stand extended for a period till April 10. The petitioner will be at liberty to apply for regular bail before the jurisdictional court (Hazratganj).”
Mehta pointed out to the court that the interim protection was granted on an unconditional apology by Khera’s lawyer.
However, the response filed by Khera justified his comment and nowhere his apology came on record.
“It was a very dirty statement to make that was not in good taste. But we want to probe what prompted him to make such a statement. Petitioner has never tendered apology or shown remorse. The apology was tendered by his counsel.”
He further pointed out that official Twitter handles of the Congress party are still sharing the comments of Khera.
“It is not a simple statement that he made as it is an attack calculated at the family (of Prime Minister). It is unfortunate that a person not part of public life is being maligned like this. This should not happen and the petitioner must control it,” Mehta added.
The bench said, “We always go by the apology tendered by the counsel. We have gone by the statement by Singhvi that he tenders apology for the petitioner. If there is any change, we will vacate our order.”
Jebraj assured the court that the petitioner will stick to his apology.
Disposing the matter, the court recorded the petitioner’s submission and said, “The petitioner has reiterated that he stands by the unconditional apology tendered by his counsel, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi.”
Earlier, the state governments of Assam and UP in their responses had claimed that the use of words and demeanor of the petitioner at the press conference made it apparent that the offences were “intentionally planned and perpetrated”.
Terming the petition filed by Khera as an attempt of “leapfroggging” the routine normal procedure available under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) for seeking quashing of the criminal cases, the state governments opposed the clubbing of FIRs and said, “The submission made before this court tendering an apology clearly appears to be a tactical submission to get a preventive order without any genuine remorse or repentance.”
The Assam government further claimed that the FIR registered at Haflong police station includes within its scope the offence of criminal conspiracy under Section 120B of Indian penal code (IPC) which needs to be independently investigated as it is not included in the other two FIRs at Uttar Pradesh. an offence under the other two FIRs registered at Lucknow and Varanasi.
The state accused the petitioner of “mischievously” uttering sentences with irresponsibility that had brought down the level of discourse.
Singhvi, while offering apology at the first hearing had even told the court that he did not subscribe to the words uttered by the spokesperson.
The FIR registered at Assam related to offences of promoting enmity, making imputations prejudicial to national integration among other offences punishable under Section 153A, 153B, 500, 504, 505(1)(b), 505(2) and 120B of the IPC.
During a press conference on Adani issue on February 17, Khera had referred to PM Modi as ‘Narendra Gautamdas Modi’. Later, he appeared to have corrected himself immediately.
The press briefing was held to flag the Congress’ demands for a JPC probe into allegations against the Adani Group by a report by US-based short-seller Hindenburg Research.