Chhattisgarh HC grants Sambit Patra interim relief to quash FIRs3 min read

-Akshya Gurnani




Justice Sanjay K Agrawal has directed that no coercive action be taken against Patra until the next hearing which has been fixed after four weeks.
The Chhattisgarh High Court on Thursday granted Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson, Sambit Patra, interim relief in a plea challenging two FIRs registered against him over tweets against former Prime Ministers, Jawaharlal Nehru and Rajiv Gandhi (Dr Sambit Patra v. State of Chhattisgarh and ors).

Justice Sanjay K Agrawal has directed that no coercive action be taken against Patra until the next hearing which has been fixed after four weeks. The Court granted the interim relief after also taking on record Patra’s submission that he had only recently been discharged from the hospital following treatment for COVID-19. The Chhattisgarh HC on Thursday granted BJP spokesperson, Sambit Patra, interim relief in a plea challenging two FIRs registered over tweets.

Last month, Patra had tweeted that Jawaharlal Nehru was responsible for the Kashmir issue. In the May 10 tweet, Patra had also stated that Rajiv Gandhi was responsible for the stealing in the Bofors scam and the death of 3,000 people in the anti-Sikh riots of 1984. Two FIRs were lodged over the tweet.

In the plea to quash the same, Senior Advocate Ajay Barman argued for Patra that the ingredients of the offenses charged against him under Sections 153A (promoting enmity between groups), 298 (uttering words to deliberately wound religious feelings) and 505 (2) (public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) were not made out.

As far as the defamation offenses charged were concerned, it was contended that cognizance of the same could not be taken based on a police complaint. Relying on Section 199 (1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), Barman argued that there has to be a written complaint.

The Court was also told that Patra had only recently been discharged after having been diagnosed with COVID-19 and that he was in quarantine. As such, it was submitted that Patra’s health may be jeopardized if interim relief is not granted and if he is arrested thereafter.

Recording these submissions, the Court proceeded to grant Patra interim relief, stating, “Considering the submissions of learned counsel for the parties and further considering the contention of the petitioner that the petitioner is a patient of COVID-19 and has recently been discharged from hospital and is undergoing quarantine for 14 days, and given the provision contained in Section 199 (1) of the CrPC, it would be expedient to direct that till the next date of hearing, no coercive steps shall be taken against the petitioner under FIR under Crime No. 192/2020 registered against the petitioner… for offenses punishable under Sections 499, 500, 501 and 505 (1) of the IPC; and FIR under Crime No. 200/2020… for an offense punishable under Sections 153A, 298 and 505 (2) of the IPC. “

Along with Barman, Advocates Awadhesh Singh, Ramakant Mishra, and Sharad Mishra also appeared for Patra. Additional Advocate General Sunil Otwani appeared for the State.

The Court has issued notice returnable in four weeks on the plea.

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