New Delhi: Two weeks after security analyst and media commentator Abhijit Iyer-Mitra was arrested by the Delhi police for allegedly making derogatory remarks about Odisha’s famous Sun Temple at Konark, the Supreme Court denied him protection from arrest.
The decision was taken by the bench headed by newly-appointed Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
When Iyer-Mitra’s counsel argued that his life may be under threat, the CJI was quoted by PTI as saying, “If your client is facing threats, there is no better place than jail.”
Noting that Iyer-Mitra’s remarks about the temple had incited religious feelings, the bench dismissed his bail petition and said that prison would be the safest place for him for now. Iyer-Mitra had previously been granted bail on a bond of Rs 1 lakh by a Delhi court, and that protection was coming to an end on October 5.
Odisha police had earlier told the court that Mitra “gave unpalatable and irresponsible remarks on [the] Konark Sun Temple by uploading his views on social media with an intention to outrage and to wound religious feeling which may create communal fraction”. The police said the “accused took his photograph along with some portion of Konark Sun Temple and he tweeted against the Odiya people”. The tweets were made on September 14.
Odisha 9: my special message to you from the Konark temple expressing my utter disgust at this monumental conspiracy against the Hindu Civilisation pic.twitter.com/wJeqZPHRDk
— Abhijit Iyer-Mitra (@Iyervval) September 16, 2018
The accompanying video, however, made it clear Iyer-Mitra was speaking in jest.
Iyer-Mitra was accompanying former BJD leader Baijayant Panda and another journalist, Aarti Tikoo Singh, in a chopper when he shot the video. Panda, who is a licensed helicopter pilot, had taken the two for a flight over the Sun Temple, the Jagannath Temple, Puri and Chilika Lake.
Iyer-Mitra’s comments had sparked a furore in the Odisha assembly. The speaker even constituted a house committee to probe the matter. The leader of opposition in the Odisha Assembly and Congress member Narasingha Mishra had said: “There are two video clips that show a non-Odia, RSS man standing in front of the Konark temple making comments… Abhijit Iyer’s remarks have disrespected and hurt the sentiments of the people of Odisha and the Odia language. He should be summoned to the state, and the House should decide on the quantum of punishment.”
A case was filed under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups on the ground of religion, grace, place of birth, residence, language etc) and 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs). If convicted, the accused may get a maximum of three-year jail term.