The Supreme Court on Thursday said that Uttar Pradesh Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Prashant Umrao, accused of spreading false information about attacks on migrant workers in Tamil Nadu, should be “more responsible” and asked him to tender an apology, Bar and Bench reported.
Last month, several videos had been shared on social media showing migrant labourers, especially from Bihar, being attacked and even killed in Tamil Nadu.
The Tamil Nadu Police and state officials as well as fact-checkers said that the claims were fake. Cases have been filed against Umrao, Hindi newspaper Dainik Bhaskar, pro-government website OpIndia editor Nupur Sharma and chief executive officer Rahul Roushan, and a few YouTubers and Twitter handles for spreading disinformation.
Umrao, who is also a lawyer, in a tweet had reportedly claimed that 15 people from Bihar had been “hanged in a room in Tamil Nadu for speaking Hindi” and that 12 of them had “sadly died”.
At Thursday’s hearing, senior advocate Sidharth Luthra, told a bench of Justices BR Gavai and Pankaj Mithal that multiple first information reports have been filed against Umrao for the tweet, which was later deleted.
The Supreme Court was hearing two petitions filed by the BJP leader – one seeking to club the FIRs filed in different police stations and another challenging a condition imposed on him by the Madras High Court while granting anticipatory bail in the case.
The judges modified the condition imposed by the High Court, saying that Umrao shall report before the police daily at 10.30 am and 5.30 pm for a period of 15 days, Live Law reported. “He shall appear on Monday [April 10] at 10 am and thereafter as and when required by the investigating officer,” the bench said.
The Supreme Court also said that the anticipatory bail granted by the High Court will be applicable to any other FIRs registered in Tamil Nadu in connection with the tweet.
Luthra told the court that Umrao had only re-tweeted news that had already been shared by several media organisations. “There was an inaccuracy,” he added. “On realising that, he deleted the tweet. Now there are multiple first information reports harassing the young man.”
Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the state, contended it is not expected that a responsible member of the Bar would make such a tweet.
“How many years has he practiced?” Justice Gavai asked. Luthra responded saying seven years, after which Gavia remarked that he should be “more responsible”.
Bihar YouTuber detained under NSA in Tamil Nadu
Earlier on Thursday, a YouTuber from Bihar who was arrested for spreading fake videos of attacks on migrant workers in Tamil Nadu was held under the National Security Act, which allows for detention for up to a year without trial.
The Madurai Crime Branch had registered a case against Manish Kashyap last month. He had surrendered at Jagdishpur police station in Bihar’s West Champaran district on March 18.
On Wednesday, a Madurai district court remanded the YouTuber to judicial custody till April 19.
An unidentified official from the Economic Offences Unit of Bihar had earlier told The Hindu that Kashyap had “strong political ambition”.
The official added, “This man was desperate to become a politician and he can go to any extent for that. The purpose behind spreading fake videos was to create sensation and to become a hero. He wanted to portray himself as the messiah of poor people. He wanted to defame the government and the system. He also wanted to become the talk of the town by spreading fake videos on social media. He basically wanted to create a situation of discord.”
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