The Orissa High Court Wednesday granted bail to Delhi-based journalist Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, who has been in jail for over a month, in two criminal cases.
Justice Debabrata Dash directed the sub-divisional judicial magistrate court of Bhubaneswar and the court of judicial magistrate of Konark to impose conditions as they deem proper for releasing Mitra on bail.
"Bails have been granted by the high court in both the cases in which charge sheets have been filed. In the charge sheets, two non-bailable offences were dropped," Mitra's counsel Nikhil Mehra said.
The journalist had been booked for non-bailable offences under sections 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class) and 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, etc) of the Indian Penal Code.
"Under these sections, the prosecution requires sanctions from the state government and it appears sanctions may not have been given," Mehra said.
There is still a charge sheet against him with certain bailable offences and those would have to be dealt with, he said, adding that certain other steps are required to be taken to secure his release from jail.
The development came a day after the Odisha government decided to grant pardon to the journalist and researcher who is accused of making derogatory remarks against the state, Lord Jagannath, Konark temple and the Odisha lawmakers.
"Taking into account his representation, the government decided not to accord sanction of prosecution in cases where prosecution has been sought for and also decided to take steps to withdraw other cases pending against him by following laid-down procedures," a senior official said on Tuesday.
The decision was made following Mitra's prayer to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to consider withholding sanction to prosecute him in certain criminal cases pending against him.
On the Odisha government granting pardon to his client, Mehra said governments do not have powers to pardon anybody.
"The governments have the power to grant sanctions to prosecute or not, and in this case, the Odisha government chose not to grant sanction for prosecution," he said.
Mitra was arrested on October 23 after he posted the controversial video on his Twitter handle.
In a petition to the state government, he apologised for the video saying he didn't intend to hurt the sentiments of the people of Odisha.
The Privilege Committee of Odisha Assembly also pardoned him on November 16 after he tendered an unconditional apology for having hurt the sentiments of people of Odisha unintentionally.