Batting for the “sacrosanct and non-negotiable” fundamental right of a person to liberty, the Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Uttar Pradesh government to immediately release freelance journalist Prashant Kanojia on bail. The top court, however, made it clear that it was granting relief to Kanojia only to protect his personal liberty and that the order should not be seen as an endorsement of the tweets that he had shared on social media.
“It is made clear that this order is not to be construed as an approval of the posts/ tweets in the social media. This order is passed in view of the excessiveness of the action taken. Needless to mention that the proceedings will take their own course in accordance with law,” a two-judge Bench headed by Justice Indira Banerjee said.
Kanojia, a freelance journalist, was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police on June 7 after he posted a tweet with a video of the state’s chief minister Yogi Adityanath. In the video, a woman can be heard claiming that she had sent a marriage proposal to Adityanath. Following his arrest, the journalist’s wife, Jagisha Arora, moved a habeas corpus plea in the Supreme Court against the state government.
During the proceedings on Tuesday, the state government pleaded that Kanojia had in the past, too, shared posts on social media that contained caste slurs and that he was arrested not only because of his tweet and posts of Friday. The government also argued that instead of approaching the top court, the petitioners could have approached the high court first. The two-judge SC Bench, however, said that it could not “sit back on technical grounds”, and ordered the release of the journalist.