Journalist Prashant Kanojia, who was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police for “defaming” Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, must immediately be released, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday. The right to liberty, a fundamental right, is non-negotiable, the court said as it granted bail.
“It is made clear that this order is not construed as an approval of tweets,” the top court said.
The Supreme Court was hearing a petition by Mr Kanojia’s wife Jagisha Arora, challenging his arrest on Saturday. “Normally we don’t entertain these type of petitions. But a person can’t spend 11 day’s in jail,” the Supreme Court said.
Five people, including Mr Kanojia, were arrested in two days on charges of posting allegedly objectionable content about the Chief Minister. The arrests over the weekend sparked a huge debate on social media on freedom of expression in the country, with the Editors Guild of India terming the journalists’ arrests “high-handed and arbitrary”. The editors’ body had said it amounted to “authoritarian misuse of laws”.
“We may disapprove these tweets but we disapprove the denial of liberty,” the top court said.
“I believe in Constitution. I have fought this case. I am happy,” a visibly emotional and tired Jagisha Arora told reporters outside the Supreme Court, soon after the hearing.