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SC orders release of Kanojia who tweeted about Yogi; upholding the right to free speech

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The Supreme Court ordered the immediate release on bail of free-lance journalist Prashant Kanojia yesterday. The vacation bench comprising Justices Indira Banerjee and Ajay Rastogi passed the order yesterday after Prarshant’s wife Jagisha Arora filed a Habeas Corpus petition in the SC.

The judges observed that Kaonijia’s arrest was illegal and went against the right to personal liberty. However they also said that the State is free to take action against him as per law because his release does not necessarily mean they approve of his posts on the social media.

Prashant Kanojia was arrested on Sunday for his posts on social media against the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, which were found to be objectional. He was taken by policemen dressed in civil clothes from his residence and filed a FIR under section 500 of IPC and section 66 of Information Technology Act.  Both are bailable offences.

However later the police added section 505 of IPC which was not there in the original FIR. The bench questioned the state police on what basis section 505 was imposed.

 Section 505 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) talks about statements amounting to public mischief  Whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement, rumour or report,—

(a) with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, any offi­cer, soldier, 3[sailor or airman] in the Army, 4[Navy or Air Force] 5[of India] to mutiny or otherwise disregard or fail in his duty as such; or

(b) with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public, or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquillity.

The bench also questioned about the 11 days remand imposed on Kanojia asking whether he was charged of murder.

The bench made it clear that an individual’s personal liberty and freedom cannot be thus infringed.

Kanojia had posted on face book and twitter, a video of a woman talking to the press where she is heard saying she has been chatting with the CM Yogi Adityanath through video and loves him. The video was not his own. He had posted the video with a line in Hindi on face book asking Yogi not to get scared of the society but to elope with the woman and marry her while on twitter he has written love cannot be hidden. 

His arrest had created a stir among other journalists and activists who also held a protest march condemning this act of the state and demanding his release.