India's top court stays arrest of Congress MP Shashi Tharoor
Publish- February 09, 2021, 01:51 PM
S Kumar - UNB Delhi Correspondent
Update- February 09, 2021, 02:40 PM
India's Supreme Court Tuesday prohibited police from arresting opposition Congress MP and former UN diplomat Shashi Tharoor as well as six journalists booked on charges of sedition and criminal conspiracy over the January 26 rampage by farmers during their tractor rally in Delhi.
"We are issuing notice... nothing is going to happen," a three-judge bench of Chief Justice Sharad A Bobde ordered in the wake of a bunch of petitions filed by Tharoor and the six journalists, including popular TV news anchor Rajdeep Sardesai seeking the quashing of all police cases against them.
"These cases will be taken up for hearing after two weeks," the court said.
At least five FIRs were filed against the seven -- one in the city of Noida close to the national capital, and four in the central state of Madhya Pradesh. In Noida, the FIR was filed on a complaint by a resident, who alleged that "digital broadcasts" and "social media posts" by Tharoor and the six journalists fuelled the violence on India's Republic Day.
Apart from 55-year-old Sardesai, others named in the FIRs are Mrinal Pande, Vinod Jose, Zafar Agha, Paresh Nath and Anant Nath. Sardesai serves as a consulting editor at the Indian Today Group. The Editors Guild of India has already condemned the FIRs against the journalists, saying they reported "in line with established norms of journalistic practice".
Thousands of farmers clashed with police on January 26, which coincided with Republic Day, after their tractor rally in Delhi in protest against three new farm laws that they fear will hurt their livelihoods, turned violent. At least one protester died and 300 cops were injured in the violence on that day, which also saw many farmers breaching the iconic Red Fort.
A UN diplomat for nearly 30 years, Tharoor is no stranger to controversy. Six years back, he got embroiled in a controversy after his wife was found dead in a Delhi hotel room, following a Twitter row that indicated his affair with a Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar.
Tharoor served as undersecretary general at the United Nations for communications and public information. But he quit the global body in 2007 after losing the election for the post of UN secretary-general to Ban Ki-moon. He entered Indian politics in 2009, but was forced to step down from his first ministerial position in 2010 over his alleged involvement in bidding for a cricket team in the country's multi-billion dollar Indian Premier League.
Tharoor subsequently served as junior human resource development minister in the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government till it was decimated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2014 general elections.