Criticism of the PM: The SC to hear Pawan Khera's petition on Monday
A petition by Congressman Pawan Khera asking for the transfer and clubbing of FIRs filed against him in Assam and Uttar Pradesh for allegedly uttering offensive statements against Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be heard by the Supreme Court on Monday.
The hearing on Khera's petition was postponed until March 20 by a bench presided over by Chief Justice of India (CJI) D Y Chandrachud on Friday after taking notice of claims that senior attorney A M Singhvi, who was representing the Congress leader, was unable to attend.
While representing Uttar Pradesh and Assam, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta pleaded with the court to hear the case on Monday rather than Friday.
"Fine, we will take it up on Monday," said the bench, which also includes justices P S Narasimha and J B Pardiwala.
Khera, who was detained by the Assam Police in connection with the case, has already had his interim bail extended by the top court till March 17.
Before, the governments of Assam and Uttar Pradesh resisted Khera's request for the clubbing of the FIRs filed against him, saying that his party was still maintaining the "same same low level" on their social media accounts.
According to the Uttar Pradesh administration, the petition was "misconceived" and "an effort to leapfrog the normal process provided under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC)," and it was requested to be dismissed with costs.
The Assam government said that even after this honourable court took cognizance of the case, the leaders of the political party (Congress), to whom the petitioner (Khera), belongs, "continued the exact same low level" on their official Twitter handles and other social media accounts.
The supreme court had already granted Khera protection from arrest on February 27.
The Congress spokesman was de-boarded from a flight that was scheduled to take him to Raipur in connection with his alleged comments against Modi made at a press conference in Mumbai on February 17. He was then detained at the Delhi airport after being deported.
On February 23, he received bail from a magisterial court in this city after the CJI-led bench had granted him temporary release earlier in the day during an urgent hearing.
The apex court had stated, "We direct that the petitioner shall be released on interim bail by the court of the competent magistrate at Delhi where he is to be produced this evening. This will enable the petitioner (Khera) to apply for regular bail before the jurisdictional court upon the FIRs being transferred to one jurisdiction.
The injunction had said that it would be in effect until February 28.
Khera requested that three distinct FIRs filed against him in the two states be transferred and combined. The supreme court, which had set the case for hearing on February 27, had sent notifications to Assam and Uttar Pradesh asking for their reply.
The CJI purportedly voiced his disapproval about Khera's comments after dictating the order, saying: "We have protected you (Khera), but there has to be some degree of conversation." The comments taken at face value and as represented in the FIRs, according to Singhvi, who was speaking on behalf of Khera, do not prove any offence punishable under the laws referenced.
Moreover, he informed the supreme court that Khera had previously expressed regret for his comments and that no arrest was necessary for the offences claimed against him in the proceedings.
Khera's comments on Modi, according to Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, who was representing the state of Assam, was a "deliberate effort to disparage a constitutional functionary." The court had seen the offending video.