Breaking: Supreme Court Grants Anticipatory Bail To Prashant Umrao In All FIRs Registered In TN, Modifies Condition Imposed By HC
The Supreme Court today granted anticipatory bail to Advocate Prashant Kumar Umrao in the multiple FIRs registered against him in different parts of Tamil Nadu for allegedly spreading false information on Twitter about attacks against Bihari migrant workers in Tamil Nadu.
The Bench of Justice B.R. Gavai and Justice Pankaj Mithal also modified the anticipatory bail condition which required the petitioner to report before the police station every day for a period of 15 days. The Court directed the petitioner to appear before the police station on Monday at 10.30 am and thereafter as and when required.
The Court issued notice in the Writ Petition filed by Prashant seeking disclosure and quashing of multiple FIRs registered against him in the state.
"We direct that the anticipatory bail which has been granted by the single judge of the High Court, as modified by us, will be applicable to any other FIRs registered in the state of Tamil Nadu with regard to the same cause of action", the Bench ordered.
The Court also asked Prashanant to tender his apology by Monday.
Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra appearing for Prashant said at the outset Prashant made a tweet and deleted it. Luthra pointed out the condition that required Prashant to report to the police station every day. He said that multiple FIRs have been filed and they don't have the details.
He also submitted that there were tweets by various media agencies on the subject. "There was an error on my part, I deleted it. They are registering multiple FIRs at the behest of various individuals. We have sought disclosure of all FIRs", he submitted.
He showed the news reports published by various news agencies about the alleged atrocities against migrants in Tamil Nadu. He also showed the tweed posted by Prashant. If there are going to be multiple FIRs, where do I go? I will become like an animal in the circus ring, he submitted. "I deleted this because I realised that there is an error, within twelve hours. It is no longer there", he told the Court.
Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi appearing for the state of Tamil Nadu submitted that such kind of tweet is not expected from a member of the Bar. "The SLP is only against a condition. He has got the bail. What is wrong with the condition?", Rohatgi argued.
Rohatgi then read out the condition.
Justice Gavai then asked what investigation the police is doing for five hours each day for 15 days. "He has not even appeared once", Rohatgi responded.
"He will appear", Justice Gavai said.
"He has not even filed an affidavit. That I am a member of the bar therefore I won't file it! There is no explanation why he has not done it", Rohatgi submitted.
"You go and appear once", Justice Gavai told Luthra.
"I will go and appear. I did not file the affidavit because if I go there, you will arrest me", Luthra submitted.
During the conversation after dictation of the order, the Bench asked what is the standing of the Petitioner at the Bar. Luthra replied that Prashant has a standing of seven years. Rohtagi responded that he has the standing to become a Magistrate and that such conduct is not expected.
The matter was mentioned yesterday before the Chief Justice led bench for the early hearing by Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra, upon which the CJI had agreed to list the matter today.
As per Prashant, the alleged tweet in question was only retweeted by him and was initially posted by some media channels. However, he deleted the tweets on coming to know that they were fake. The original tweet targeted Tejashwi Yadav, the Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar. The tweet allegedly read that "fifteen people from Bihar had been hanged in a room in Tamil Nadu for speaking Hindi and that 12 of them had sadly died. After that, Tejaswi Yadav shamelessly celebrated birthday party with Stalin in Tamil Nadu."
FIRs were registered in Tamil Nadu against him under Sections 153 (provocation with intent to cause riot), 153A (hate speech), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code. However, he was granted anticipatory bail on March 21, 2023 by the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court, with several conditions.
In his petition before the Apex Court, he has contended that he fears for his safety if he is arrested in any of these undisclosed FIRs "which have been lodged by the Respondent in complete violation of basic tenets of the Criminal Jurisprudence and with a sole purpose to curtain the personal liberty of the Petitioner".