The Supreme Court has upheld the majesty of law once again and reassured us that we are not a banana republic yet. The Bench of justices Indira Banerjee and Ajay Rastogi on Tuesday let off on bail freelance journalist Prashant Kanojia, who was arrested by the UP Police, picked up from Delhi and detained in Lucknow for posting an allegedly defamatory tweet against Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. The case was filed by the UP Police, which had also acted against two TV journalists airing the same controversial video. As a newspaper we are opposed to journalists making indecent, personal attacks, with no merit or public interest, against politicians, bureaucrats or for that matter anyone in public life. That falls into the category of yellow journalism.
But to unleash the state machinery against a journalist for a social media post or a TV show is draconian and to arrest that person is to send a chilling message to the journalistic community. A 32-year-old Kanpur woman, whom her family believes to be unstable, had made some statements about the CM. The TV channel had no business airing it nor did others have to circulate the video clip. Yogi could have lawfully proceeded against individuals for their social media posts and against the channel. But the instinctive response to arrest and detain an individual is an extremely undemocratic act. People in positions of authority with power to curtail others’ freedoms should exercise it with grave restraint. For, in their actions lie the everyday test of our Constitution, and Yogi failed us.
In recent times, our first and only hope for justice is often the final arbiter. The Supreme Court very clearly spelt out where the UP Police has gone wrong: the tweets can’t be approved of. The police could have initiated action against Kanojia, but should not have deprived him of his liberty. When our powerful rulers use the police to impose their private will, what gets trampled is not just an individual’s rights, but a society’s rule of law. A ‘man of God’, that too in power, ought to exhibit greater generosity and be doubly forgiving.