The Supreme Court on Monday extended the interim bail granted to Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera, who was arrested by Assam police in connection with an FIR registered over his comments against the PM.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing Assam, and additional advocate general Garima Prasad, representing Uttar Pradesh, sought time to file their response in the matter.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud and comprising justices P S. Narasimha and J. B. Pardiwala said, "List on Friday...interim protection granted extended till next date of hearing". The bench noted that Assam, where one FIR has been filed, and Uttar Pradesh, where two FIRs have been filed, would file counter in the matter.

On February 23, the Supreme Court protected Khera, saying that he will be released on interim bail upon production before the magistrate in Delhi and the interim relief is till Tuesday.

The top court told senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Khera, "We have protected you but there has to be some level of discourse...". The court agreed to hear Khera's plea to club all FIRs at one place.

Khera was arrested after he was forced to de-board an IndiGo flight to Raipur, where the Congress was holding a plenary session.

New Delhi: Congress leader Pawan Khera leaves from the Dwarka court after getting interim bail, in New Delhi on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023
New Delhi: Congress leader Pawan Khera leaves from the Dwarka court after getting interim bail, in New Delhi on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023IANS

After Khera was stopped from boarding the flight, Congress leaders and workers staged a protest at the airport.

Within hours, the top court was approached and a bench headed by Chief Justice Chandrachud granted protection from arrest till Tuesday.

During the hearing last week, Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, representing Assam police, submitted that Khera did not make the statements by mistake and that he consciously insulted the PM, who is an elected leader of the largest democracy in the world. Bhati played the video to buttress her arguments.

Singhvi urged the apex court to protect Khera from further coercive steps and added that this should not happen under no stretch of circumstances for one sentence. Singhvi argued that any amount of political speech, freedom of speech, they cannot invoke 153A of the IPC.

Delhi Police stop Pawan Khera from boarding Raipur flight

Bhati argued that factually, Khera has been arrested and he will be taken for medical test and will be produced before the court. She pressed that the court will have to see the entire video of the press conference and then it will be apparent where it was a mistake or remarks were made deliberately. Bhati argued that it is the demeanour in the video which counts.

During the hearing, the bench asked Bhati, "You tell us prima facie how 153A is made out?" Bhati said the entire press conference has to be seen and it is a derogatory remark made, to incite disaffection against the PM.

Singhvi said this is deliberate harassment by having three FIRs in two states and his client has already apologised and added Khera would tender his unconditional apology for his remarks on PM.

(With inputs from IANS)