Bhubaneswar: Former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju on Thursday said that the Supreme Court has erred grievously by denying bail to Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, who was arrested by Odisha police over his derogatory remarks against Odisha and Konark Sun temple on Wednesday.
During a visit to the Konark Sun Temple on September 16, Mitra had posted a satirical video on Twitter, where he made derogatory remarks by insulting Odisha, its culture, tradition and the lawmakers.
Mitra was earlier arrested by Odisha police on September 20 from Delhi on charges of hurting religious sentiments. A Delhi court later granted him bail against a bond of Rs 1 lakh and directed him to join the investigation at Konark police station.
Though he moved the Supreme Court for bail, but the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi-led bench rejected his bail plea.
Katju, who also made offensive comment on Odias in 2016, said bail should be granted to Mitra.
The retired judge also cited a apex court verdict to justify his demand.
“In 1977 the Supreme Court in State of Rajasthan vs Balchand held that bail not jail is the normal rule, and this principle was reiterated by a bench of the Supreme Court presided over by the second senior most judge of the Court Justice Lokur in Dataram Singh vs State of U.P. in February 2018,” said Katju in his Facebook account.
“Following the principles laid down in Balchand’s case bail should certainly have been granted by the Supreme Court to Abhijit Iyer-Mitra. There was nothing to show that if bail was granted he would have tampered with the evidence or fled from justice. The offence alleged against him was not so grave or heinous like murder or gang rape. He had only tweeted some comments on the Konark temple, which were no doubt indiscreet, but he tweeted soon thereafter that he was joking,” he added.
At any event, a condition could have been placed in the bail order that he should not repeat such statements, and if he did so bail.may be cancelled. But it was surely not a case for rejecting bail outright.
“I suggest a second petition be moved by lawyers of Abhijit immediately before the appropriate Court referring to Balchand’s case and the observations of Justice Lokur in Dataram’s case,” said Katju.
In Ghani vs Jones (1970) 1 Q.B. 693 Lord Denning observed “A man’s liberty of movement is held so highly by the laws of England that it is not to be hindered or prevented except on the surest grounds “. This observation was approved by the 7 judge bench decision of the Indian Supreme Court in Maneka Gandhi vs Union of India ( see online ) and hence it is the law of the land in India took, the former apex court judge posted.
“Yet the Supreme Court denied bail to Abhijit Iyer-Mitra although it should have been granted to him in the light of the principles for granting bail laid down in State of Rajasthan vs Balchand and in Dataram Singh vs State of UP. There was little likelihood that Abhijit would have tampered with the evidence or fled from justice if he had been granted bail, and it was not a grave or heinous offence like murder or gang rape. He had only made a satirical tweet about the Konark temple, and later he tweeted again saying he was joking,” he added.
“Hence, bail should certainly have been granted, though a condition could have been imposed in the bail order that he should not repeat such statements as they may hurt religious feelings, and if he does so bail may be cancelled. But it was not a case deserving rejection of bail altogether,” Katju said.
Mitra, a columnist had been re-summoned by the House Committee, headed by Leader of Opposition, Narasingha Mishra to appear before it on November 2. Mitra is facing the allegation of making derogatory remarks on Odisha MLAs.
Notably, in 2016 Katju had to beg apology for making offensive remarks on Odias.
“I was asked to write about the Oriyas (Odias). What is there to write about these poor chaps? Ever since they got a thrashing at the hands of Ashoka in the battle of Kalinga, they have been a dejected lot. Now all they have with them are a lot of pots (Patras), big pots (Mahapatras) and supposedly intelligent kings (Patnaiks). And of course they have Lord Jaggannath (sic), to whom they pray every day for revenge on the abominable Biharis,” Katju had posted his Facebook account.