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Freedom of speech and expression not an absolute right: Bombay High Court

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The Bombay High Court on Friday said the freedom of speech and expression provided under Article 19 of the Constitution was not an absolute right.

The court made the observation while refusing to grant interim protection from arrest to a woman charged by the Mumbai and Palghar police for allegedly making offensive remarks on Twitter against Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and his son Aditya Thackeray.

A bench of Justices SS Shinde and MS Karnik, however, accepted the state government’s oral assurance that the woman, Sunaina Holey, will not be arrested in the case at least for the next two weeks.

The state, however, added that such relief will be subject to Ms Holey visiting the Azad Maidan and Tulinj police stations Mumbai and Palghar district, respectively, for questioning, and “cooperating” with the police in their probe.

The bench also allowed Ms Holey to approach the court at any time during this period in case the police decide to take any coercive action against her, or if any of her rights were breached.

Ms Holey has approached the Bombay High Court through her counsel Abhinav Chandrachud, seeking that all the charges against her be dropped.

As an interim relief, she had sought that the court grant her protection from arrest till her case was heard finally and the court took a decision on quashing the FIRs against her.

Ms Holey has three FIRs filed against her, one in BKC cyber crime police station, another at Azad Maidan police station, and the third one at Tulinj police station in Palghar.

The FIRs were registered following complaints made by several persons, including by one Rohan Chavhan, a leader of the Shiv Sena’s youth wing Yuva Sena.

As per the complaints, Sunaina Holey, 38, made offensive and defamatory comments against the Chief Minister and his son on Twitter.

She was arrested in August this year and released on bail in the case pertaining to the FIR registered against her by the BKC cyber crimes police.

On the remaining two FIRs, she was served notices under section 41A(1) of the CrPC, asking her to visit the concerned police stations for probe.

On Friday, the state’s counsel YP Yagnik told the court that Holey had not responded to the notices.

Advocate Chandrachud, however, said that his client was apprehensive that if she visited the police, she would be arrested. Therefore, he sought interim relief. However, the bench said that interim protection from arrest could be granted only for arrest in rare case

But it noted that the section 41 (A) provided that a person need not be arrested as long as he or she was cooperating with the police’s probe. And in case one is required to be arrested, the police must give prior notice for such arrest.

Mr Yagnik said that the police wasn’t merely focused on arresting Ms Holey, but it wanted to make progress in its probe.

The court accepted Ms Holey’s submission that she will visit the two police stations next week.

Sunaina Holey, a Navi Mumbai resident, has been charged under IPC sections 505 (2) for statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes and 153 (A) for promoting enmity between different religious groups, and under relevant sections of the IT Act.

According to police, she had made a series of posts on social media between July 25 and 28, including an offensive caricature of Uddhav Thackeray and Aditya Thackeray.

On Friday, while pressing for interim relief, advocate Chandrachud told the court that the case was a “rarest of rare” one as Holey was now being targeted for any and all of her tweets.

His client’s rights under Article 19 of the Constitution were being breached, he argued.

“This has now attained a political colour and for every tweet I have an FIR registered. I am having to run from pillar to post,” advocate Chandrachud said.

The bench however, reminded that one’s right to free speech and expression under Article 19 were not absolute. “Perhaps citizens are under the impression that freedom of speech and expression is an absolute right, without any restrictions,” the bench said.

Mr Chandrachud, however, said Sunaina Holey was not under such impression.

The court will hear Holey on the issue of quashing the FIRs on September 29. It also directed the state to file its reply to Ms Holey’s plea by then.

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‘Second wave of coronavirus at its peak in Delhi,’ says Arvind Kejriwal, cites experts

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Delhi was witnessing the second wave of coronavirus and has now turned the corner, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Thursday.

The sudden spike in case, crossing 4,000 which took place earlier this month was the second wave of the disease, he said.

CM’s remarks came while speaking at a programme in PUSA (Dr. Rajendra Prasad Central Agricultural University).

“On September 16, Delhi recorded approximately 4,500 cases. After that, the cases started to decline and in the last 24 hours, 3,700 cases have come up in the national capital. In the coming days, the numbers will decline further,” he said.

“From July 1 to August 17, cases were in control. So experts are believing that the second wave of coronavirus which had hit Delhi is now on peak and its intensity will be less in the coming days,” he contended.

With a fresh spike of 86,508 coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, India has crossed the 57 lakh mark, according to Ministry of Health on Thursday.

India, which continues to remain the second-worst affected country’s total Covid-19 caseload now stands at 57,32,518 out of which 9,66,382 are active coronavirus cases which account for 16.85 per cent of all cases.

With 87,374 patients that have recovered from Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, the recoveries continue to remain more than the number of new coronavirus infections for the fifth consecutive day, according to data by Ministry of Health.

Delhi’s total coronavirus case load after daily spike of 3,714 cases now stands at 2,56,789 Covid-19 cases.

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Conspiracy grew right after 2019 parliamentary elections: Police in Delhi riots chargesheet

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In its chargesheet filed over the investigations in the Delhi violence, the Delhi Police said the conspiracy was plotted right after the 2019 parliamentary elections.

“From the day that the results of the 2019 Parliamentary elections were declared, the tone and tenor of the public utterances of the key conspirators of the present case have shown a clear streak of affinity towards violence which had started playing out in their minds,” it said.

Police have filed a 2,695-page “final report” in the chargesheet filed against 15 people under the stringent UAPA in a case of alleged conspiracy related to the February riots in Northeast Delhi.

The chargesheet filed by the police includes the names of former AAP councillor Tahir Hussain, Pinjra Tod’s Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, former DU student Gulfisha, Jamia Millia Islamia PhD student Meeran Haider and Jamia Coordination Committee media coordinator Safoora, among others.

“Internationally, terrorist activity is defined as the use of violence to force a government to accept/submit to political demands,” the final report, signed by DCP (Special Cell) P S Kushwah and ACP (Special Cell) Alok Kumar said.

“The conspiracy grew in an organic manner from the formation of a group called MSJ, an overtly communal seed that was sown after CAB to the subsequent formation of JCC and finally the emergence of DPSG, which provided a secular facade and naxal genes of violent resistance to an otherwise radically communal agenda,” it said.

The report further said that conspirators, by their ingenuity and criminality of thoughts, presented an entirely new dimension to the meaning of ‘hate speech’. Theirs was covered in the sugarcoat of nationalism which hit the sour and sordid truth that it was in fact a well-thought out attempt at igniting and reinforcing a pan-Islamic identity.

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Freelance journalist, who also worked for China’s Global Times, arrested for spying in Delhi

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The Delhi Police on Saturday said that the freelance journalist, who was caught in the national capital of spying, was also providing sensitive information about India’s border strategy and army deployment to Chinese intelligence.

Police further claimed to have busted a major spying operation amid soaring tensions between the two countries.

The police told that a Chinese woman, Qing Shi, and a Nepalese man, Sher Singh alias Raj Bohra, have been booked along with Sharma under the Official Secrets Act.

“Freelance journalist Rajeev Sharma arrested under Official Secrets Act for passing sensitive information to Chinese intelligence. A Chinese woman and her Nepalese associate also arrested for paying him large amounts of money routed through shell companies,” the Delhi Police said.

“Journalist Rajeev Sharma was involved in passing sensitive defence and strategic information to Chinese intelligence officers from 2016 to 2018. He used to meet them at several locations in different countries,” Sanjeev Kumar Yadav, DCP, Special Cell Delhi Police told.

“His 2 associates-a Chinese woman and Nepalese man, have a company in Mahipalpur, from where they exported medicines to China. Money sent from China was given to agents here. As per probe, transactions of Rs 40-45 lakhs have taken place in last 1 year,” the officer told.

“Rajeev Sharma has almost 40 years of experience as a journalist. In additional to his experience as a journalist in several news firms in India, he has written articles for Chinese media agency Global Times as a freelance journalist,” he added.

“Huge numbers of mobile phones, laptops and other incriminating and sensitive material have been recovered,” the police said.

Sharma is a journalist accredited with the Press Information Bureau (PIB).

Yesterday, senior police officer Sanjeev Kumar Yadav had said. “He was found to be in possession of some classified defence-related documents. The investigation is in progress and further details will be shared in due course.”

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