SC clubs, transfers FIRs against Congress leader Khera to Lucknow

New Delhi, March 20 : The Supreme Court on Monday clubbed the FIRs registered against Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera, in connection with his comments against the prime minister, at Assam and Varanasi and transferred them to Lucknow.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Uttar Pradesh and Assam governments, contended that no remorse has been shown by Khera over his comments against the PM despite his counsel tendering an apology in the court.

A bench, headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud and comprising Justices P.S. Narasimha and J.B. Pardiwala, said the petitioner would be at liberty to apply for regular bail before the jurisdictional court in the matter and also extended his interim bail till April 10.

Two FIRs were registered against Khera in UP and one in Assam.

During the hearing, Mehta submitted that after having tendered an apology before the court in the rejoinder, Khera has sought to justify himself that he had not done anything wrong and it is a fair criticism.

He urged the court to record the statement that despite the pleadings he abides by his apology.

Counsel, representing Khera, submitted that senior advocate Dr A.M. Singhvi, who represented Khera in the previous hearing, made it very clear that Khera’s comment on the PM was not in good taste and added that apology was tendered for being distasteful in nature.

The bench, in its order, recorded that the petitioner’s counsel during the hearing has reiterated that the petitioner stands by the unconditional apology that was tendered on behalf of the petitioner by Dr Singhvi.

Mehta further added that even after court’s order the official handle of Khera’s political party has kept on tweeting the same thing, which should never have been done. “Never happened in the past in India political discourse that a person who is not a part of public life is maligned like this, but that is for the petitioner to control,” he said.

At the outset, due to the absence of Singhvi, counsel for petitioner requested for the matter to be taken on next Monday. Mehta suggested that the FIRs could be clubbed in the matter.

Khera’ counsel urged the court to hear the matter on Monday and added that Dr Singhvi wished to argue for the case to be transferred to Delhi in the interest of fair trial. However, the bench was not inclined to transfer the petition to Delhi.

The court directed that the FIRs registered at Varanasi and at Assam will be transferred to PS Hazratganj, Lucknow.

On February 23, the Supreme Court protected Khera, saying that he will be released on interim bail upon production before the magistrate in Delhi. In previous hearings, the top court had extended the interim bail granted to Khera.

The top court had then told senior advocate Singhvi, representing Khera:, “We have protected you but there has to be some level of discourse…”. It 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.

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 interim protection from arrest.

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