Two Months After Arrest for Tweet, HC Grants Bail to Journalist Prashant Kanojia

Kanojia was earlier denied bail by the sessions court in Lucknow and had moved the high court on September 8.

New Delhi: Freelance journalist Prashant Kanojia, who had been arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police over a tweet on August 18, has been granted bail by the Allahabad high court. Kanojia had to spend an extra month in jail after the high court, which first heard his bail plea in September, accepted the government’s request for four weeks to respond to his petition.

Kanojia was earlier denied bail by the sessions court in Lucknow and had moved the high court on September 8.

Kanojia’s wife Jagisha Arora tweeted about his release, thanking all those who had stood by her.

In an FIR registered by the Hazratganj police station in Lucknow on August 17, the police had alleged that Kanojia’s tweet threatened law and order. The FIR states:

“Today, on 17/08/2020, while on official duty, we found that on Twitter and WhatsApp, a Facebook post taken from Sushil Tiwari of Hindu Army was morphed with the intent to defame Sushil Tiwari. Prashant Kanojia wrote, “It is Tiwari Ji’s direction that entry for SC/ST/OBC be banned in the Ram Mandir and everybody should raise their voice for this.”

“This was being circulated as a screenshot of Sushil Tiwari’s post. The viral screenshot of his social media message has been attached here. This kind of objectionable post will result in disturbing communal harmony, create tension between different communities and can hurt religious feelings, which can threaten law and order.”

The origins of the case lie in a Facebook post by a Hindutva activist, Sushil Tiwari, head of the self-styled ‘Hindu Army’, in which he posted a photograph of himself with the words – ‘UPSC se Islamic Study turant hatakar Vedic Study joda jai, sabhi log ek saath avaaz uthayein‘ (Let everyone demand that the UPSC remove Islamic Study and add Vedic Study’.

Unknown persons began circulating this image with changed wording: ‘Ram mandir mein Shudron, OBC, SC, ST ka pravesh nishedh rahega sabhi log ek saath avaaz uthayein‘, i.e. ‘Let everyone demand that Shudras, OBC, SC, ST not be allowed entry into the Ram mandir’.

Police allege that Kanojia tweeted this morphed image and have invoked invoked nine sections of the Indian Penal Code against him. No action has been taken against Tiwari for his original post, or several other video messages in which he makes inflammatory and communal remarks against Muslims.

Kanojia was arrested last year as well, for a tweet that the UP police claimed had insulted chief minister Yogi Adityanath. In that case, the Supreme Court ordered him released on bail immediately. The bench said then, “The court need not comment on the contents of the tweets. The question is, should the petitioner have been deprived of his liberty over them. The answer to that is prima facie in the negative. Fundamental rights under Article 19 and 21 are non-negotiable.”

Kanojia worked as a reporter for The Wire Hindi from 2016 to 2018.