R-Day violence: SC protects Shashi Tharoor, others from arrest

In a big relief to Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai and five other journalists, the Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed their arrest in multiple FIRs against them over their alleged tweets in connection with violence in Delhi during the tractor rally on Republic Day.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Delhi Police, contended before a bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde that tweets published by Tharoor and others had a horrendous effect and insisted that he could bring on record material to establish this.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the petitioner, submitted before the bench, “What prejudice will be caused if protection from the arrest is given to the petitioners”. He cited that sedition has also been added.

The counsel for petitioner argued: “What have they done to get charged with sedition?”

Mehta opposed this argument saying that wrong tweets and reporting about a farmer being shot dead when he died of accidental injuries, had an horrendous impact during the violence.

Mukul Rohatgi, representing The Caravan magazine, said that the client has already withdrawn the tweet and put out a correct version, yet FIRs have been lodged against the journalists. Rohatgi insisted that his client has not hurt any religious sentiments.

The bench noted that petitioners will not be arrested till the next date of hearing.

Mehta, who was appearing for the Delhi Police, assured the court that these accused will not be arrested till next date.

The top court reiterated that all the petitioners should be protected from arrest till next hearing. Mehta said he cannot give assurance on behalf of other state governments.

The accused in the FIRs are Congress leader Shashi Tharoor and scribes — Rajdeep Sardesai, Anant Nath and Paresh Nath, Mrinal Pandey, Zafar Agha and Vinod K. Jose. The FIRs have been lodged against them for their alleged misstatements and wrong reporting on the tractor rally violence on Republic Day.

On January 30, Delhi Police had filed a case against Tharoor, Sardesai, The Caravan and others.

The FIR filed in Delhi was filed on a complaint by city resident Chiranjiv Kumar. He complained that Tharoor and the others misled people on the death of a protester in central Delhi’s ITO when thousands of farmers entered areas in the national capital, including the Red Fort, which was not part of the agreed route to carry out the tractor rally.

Earlier, Tharoor and six journalists were booked by the Noida Police for sedition, among other charges, in connection with the violence during the tractor rally in Delhi. Journalists Mrinal Pande, Zafar Agha, Paresh Nath and Anant Nath have also moved the top court challenging the FIRs.

The petitioners have challenged these FIRs, which claimed that they published alleged misleading tweets on violence on Republic Day.

Madhya Pradesh Police have also filed a case against Tharoor and the six journalists over their alleged misleading tweets in connection with violence during the tractor rally in Delhi.

On January 26, thousands of protesting farmers deviated from the agreed route to carry out the tractor rally and clashed with the police in several parts of the capital. The farmer unions had decided to carry out a tractor rally to highlight their protest against the three farm laws, as they insisted the Centre to repeal these laws.