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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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Approach with ‘open heart’, not with preconditions: Farmers reject Amit Shah’s proposal for discussion

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The protesting farmers on Sunday have rejected home minister Amit Shah’s proposal for an early discussion on their grievances.

The farmers said the government should have approached with “an open heart” and not put preconditions. The farmers’ decision came after a meeting this morning to discuss the Home Minister’s offer.

It is to be noted that Amit Shah had said that if the farmer unions want talks with the government before December 3, they have to shift to the grounds at Burari to hold their protest in a structured manner.

The farmers’ decision comes hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his Mann ki Baat show said, “The new farm laws have opened the doors of opportunity for the Indian farmers.”

He said that the demands that the framers ‘made over the years’ which every government had promised to meet has ‘finally been met.’

Before the PM’s address, state president of Punjab Kisan Union, Ruldu Singh had said, “We will discuss on how to engage in talks with the centre. We are ready for talks with the centre only if they invite us for the same.”

He added that apart from the farm laws, they also want withdrawal of electricity amendment bill (2020).

“We firmly know that the union government will not agree to all our demands. While getting the three farm laws revoked is our primary demand, we also want withdrawal of electricity amendment bill (2020). If government insists on farm laws, then we will push for legalising MSP for the purchase of every crop,” he said.

A group of farmers, walking with tractors carrying stocks of food and essential supplies, tried to enter Delhi from multiple points, defying barricades.

Haryana police had dug trenches at various crossing points in order to stop the marching farmers.

Delhi Police used water cannon and tear gas shells to disperse protesting farmers at Tikri border near Delhi-Bahadurgarh highway.

Farmers were seen clashing with security forces, as they tried to head towards Delhi as part of their protest march.

Delhi Police had seek permission from Delhi Government to convert nine stadiums into temporary prisons, in view of ongoing protest. However, the permission by denied.

Protesting farmers were allowed to enter the national capital. They will have the permission to protest at the Nirankari Samagam Ground in the Burari area, Delhi Police Commissioner had said.

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PM to visit Varanasi tomorrow; will dedicate six-lane highway project, participate in Dev Deepawali

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Varanasi on 30 November 2020 and dedicate to the nation the six-lane widening project of the Handia (Prayagraj) – Rajatalab (Varanasi) section of National Highway 19. During the tour, the Prime Minister will attend Dev Deepawali, undertake a site visit of Kashi Vishwanath Temple Corridor Project and also visit the Sarnath Archaeological Site.

The 73 Km stretch of the newly widened and six laned NH19, made with a total outlay of Rs 2447 crore, is expected to reduce the travel time between Prayagraj and Varanasi by one hour.

Dev Deepawali, which has become a world famous festival of light and fervour in Varanasi, is celebrated on every Poornima of the Kartik month. The festival will be started by the Prime Minister by lighting a diya on the Raj Ghat of Varanasi, which will be followed by lighting of 11 lakh diyas on both sides of River Ganges.

During the visit, the Prime Minister will also undertake a site visit of the under construction Kashi Vishwanath Temple Corridor Project to review its progress. He will also see the Light and Sound show at the archaeological site of Sarnath, which had been inaugurated by him earlier this month.

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Farmers move close to Delhi, Police seeks permission to convert nine stadiums into temporary prisons

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The protest of the farmers against the three farm bills continues on the second day also after they were disallowed to march towards Delhi.

They faced lathi-charge and tear gas early this morning at the Haryana-Delhi border.

As per the reports, groups of farmers, walking with tractors carrying stocks of food and essential supplies, are trying to enter Delhi from multiple points, defying barricades.

Haryana police have dug trenches at various crossing points in order to stop the marching farmers.

Amid the protest, the Delhi Metro has closed the exit gates of some metro stations at Green line.

Delhi Police used water cannon and tear gas shells to disperse protesting farmers at Tikri border near Delhi-Bahadurgarh highway.

Farmers were seen clashing with security forces, as they tried to head towards Delhi as part of their protest march.

Delhi Police seeks permission from Delhi Government to convert nine stadiums into temporary prisons, in view of ongoing protest.

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