Migrant Workers’ Issue in TN: HC Grants Transit Anticipatory Bail to Lawyer Till Mar 20 To Approach Chennai Court

 The Delhi High Court Tuesday granted transit anticipatory bail till March 20 to a lawyer to approach a Chennai court in an FIR lodged by the Tamil Nadu Police for allegedly giving false information claiming attacks on migrant workers in the state.

The high court granted the relief to Prashant Kumar Umrao, a lawyer, whose verified Twitter handle says he is a spokesperson for Uttar Pradesh BJP, for 13 days and asked him to furnish his permanent address and mobile number to the counsel for State of Tamil Nadu and share his live Google pin location.

“I am of the view that the applicant should be granted reasonable time to approach the concerned territorial court. The application is allowed. He is granted transit anticipatory bail till March 20 to approach the competent territorial court,” Justice Jasmeet Singh said.

The FIR has been lodged against Umrao under various sections of the IPC, including those for provocation with intent to cause riot, promoting enmity and hatred, provoking breach of peace and statement leading to public mischief, police said. Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi Central Police Station has filed the FIR.

Advocates Kushal Kumar and Harsh Ahuja, representing Umrao, submitted before the court that he has an apprehension of being arrested in the case and requires reasonable time to approach the territorial jurisdictional court seeking bail.

Initially, the petitioner’s counsel sought the relief for 12 weeks. However, the court said it cannot give it for so long and it can only grant the anticipatory bail for the time to enable him to go to Chennai and approach the court concerned.

“At least give me six to eight weeks. I am being witch hunted. I am a young lawyer with a practice of only six years,” Kumar submitted on behalf of Umrao.

The counsel claimed that on Monday police authorities called up his clerk to some place on some pretext and forced him to disclose the whereabouts of Umrao.

Senior advocates Sanjay Hedge and Joseph Aristotle, appearing for the State of Tamil Nadu, said Umrao has been allegedly tweeting false information and later deleting it.

The counsel argued that the allegations against the petitioner are grave and there can be nothing more anti-national than this as he was trying to “break” India.

They further said there are direct flights to Trivandrum and one stop over flights to Thoothukudi, hence he should have directly approached the territorial jurisdictional court instead of moving the plea before the Delhi High Court.

Umrao, in his petition filed also through advocates Vishal Rai and Addtya Kapoor, claimed the FIR has been wrongly registered against him in the aftermath of certain tweets which he posted on Twitter based on news covered by national news agencies.

“The applicant (Umrao) only gained the knowledge of the said FIR through a press release of the respondent no. 1 (state of Tamil Nadu) and several news articles which have been recently published covering the action initiated by the respondent no. 1 in response to similar tweets and news articles,” the plea said.

The petition said it is clear that the provisions under which the FIR has been registered against Umrao are not even prima facie attracted in the present case, and he is merely being made a “scapegoat”.

“The applicant is a victim of political rivalry as he is associated with a different political party. The applicant intends to avail his legal remedies under Section 438 of the CrPC. before the courts at Tamil Nadu having jurisdiction in the subject FIR, however, he is having grave apprehension that before he could avail such legal remedies, he would be arrested by the Tamil Nadu police in connection with the FIR,” it said.

The Tamil Nadu police said on March 4 that cases have been filed against several people, including journalists, for allegedly spreading false information claiming attacks on migrant workers in the state.

Police said special teams have been formed under the orders of the Director General of Police and that migrant workers of Hindi speaking states are living in peace in Tamil Nadu with safety and security and without fear.

The petition said on March 4, the state police published a press release informing about action being taken against people who published certain information related to migrant labourers being attacked in Tamil Nadu and a case has been registered against the applicant under various sections of the IPC.

“In view of the press release, registration of FIR against the applicant and subsequent action of the respondent no. 1, the applicant is seriously apprehending arrest in the subject FIR. The applicant is a resident of NCT of Delhi and is a practising lawyer before the courts at Delhi. He is a member of Delhi High Court Bar Association. He is also serving as standing counsel for the State of Goa before the Supreme Court,” it said.

It said if he is arrested without any reasonable opportunity to avail his legal remedies owing to his residence in Delhi, the distance and various other factors including the requirement and time to look for and engage a counsel in Tamil Nadu, the right to liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution would stand violated at the hands of the state authorities.

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