SC extends Khera’s interim bail till March 17

Uttar Pradesh says the Congress leader’s utterances were a ‘deliberate attempt to denigrate a constitutional functionary’

March 03, 2023 04:37 pm | Updated 08:01 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Congress leader Pawan Khera leaves after appearing before the Dwarka Court, in New Delhi | File Photo

Congress leader Pawan Khera leaves after appearing before the Dwarka Court, in New Delhi | File Photo | Photo Credit: ANI

The Supreme Court on Friday extended the interim bail granted to Congress party spokesperson Pawan Khera till March 17 even as Uttar Pradesh and Assam objected to the clubbing and transfer of FIRs registered against him for allegedly using objectionable words against Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a press conference in February.

Uttar Pradesh told a Bench led by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud that Mr. Khera’s utterances were a “deliberate attempt to denigrate a constitutional functionary”. It said the plea to club and transfer the cases were an attempt to “stall investigations into deliberate utterances of defamatory words relating to one of the highest constitutional functionaries of this country”.

“Any interference in the course of an investigation is impermissible, and the petitioner [Mr. Khera] is not entitled to seek the intervention of this court in the course of an investigation. It is submitted that the petition under Article 32 constitutes an attempt of leapfrogging the routine normal procedure available under the Code of Criminal Procedure,” Uttar Pradesh said in its response in the Supreme Court.

It highlighted that the truth needs to be ascertained behind complaints filed against Mr. Khera, accusing him of “dishonourably uttering the name of the late father of the Hon’ble Prime Minister to be ‘Gautam Das’ and further sarcastically remarking that though the name of his late father is ‘Damodar Das’ but his work is similar to that of ‘Gautam Das’”.

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Assam, in a separate response, said there is no apology for “committing a criminal offence”.

Mr. Khera’s readiness to apologise in the Supreme Court was merely a “tactical submission to get a preventive order without any genuine remorse or repentance”. His, Assam submitted, were “deliberate utterances which has brought discourse to its lowest”. It said the “offending statements were made intentionally to provoke violence and disturb peace and tranquility in the society”.

It said his arrest was required for a “proper and thorough investigation” into the allegations.

The Supreme Court on February 23 had ordered the release of Mr. Khera on interim bail, hours after he was deboarded from an IndiGo flight at the Delhi airport and detained. He had been on his way to Raipur to attend a party plenary session that day.

Mr. Khera, is reported to have referred to Mr. Modi as “Narendra Gautam Das Modi” during a press conference seeking a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the US-based Hindenburg Research’s report against the Adani Group.

On February 23, it was known that he was variously booked in both States under Sections 153A (promoting religious enmity), 153B (imputations or assertions prejudicial to national integration), 295A (outraging religious feelings), 500 (defamation), 504 (intentional insult to provoke breach of peace), 505 (statements amounting to public mischief), 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.

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