The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered immediate release of freelance journalist Prashant Kanojia, who was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police for “defaming” chief minister Yogi Adityanath. The court found the arrest to be “illegal” and “unconstitutional”.
Hearing a petition by Kanojia’s wife challenging his arrest on June 8, the Supreme Court said: “Normally we do not entertain these type of petitions. But a person cannot spend 11 days in jail.”
Granting bail to Kanojia, the vacation bench of the court headed by Justice Indira Banerjee asked the Uttar Pradesh government why he was arrested and under which provision.
Kanojia was arrested by Uttar Pradesh police in Delhi for posting a tweet on Twitter with a video clip in which a woman claimed sending a marriage proposal to Adityanath. The Uttar Pradesh administration found the tweet to be “objectionable” and he was picked up by the state police from his home in Delhi on the basis of a complaint by a police officer in Lucknow.
The police also arrested Ishika Singh and Anuj Shukla, the head and editor of a private news channel, which aired the video on the same day.
In separate incidents, two other persons were also arrested last weekend for posting allegedly objectionable comments about Adityanath.
Journalists across the country condemned the arrests of Kanojia and others terming them atrocious and a move to throttle freedom of expression in India. The Editors Guild of India described the arrests as “high-handed and arbitrary” which amounted to “authoritarian misuse of laws”.
Many legal luminaries also said the arrests were illegal and unconstitutional.