‘Tender Apology, Be More Responsible’: SC to BJP Leader Accused of Spreading Fake News

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NEW DELHI – The Supreme Court on Thursday asked lawyer Prashant Kumar Umrao, accused of spreading false information about attacks on migrant labourers from Bihar in Tamil Nadu, to tender an apology and told him to be more responsible.

Umrao’s verified Twitter handle says he is a spokesperson for Uttar Pradesh BJP.

A bench of Justices B.R. Gavai and Pankaj Mithal asked senior advocate Sidharth Luthra, representing Umrao: “What is his standing at the bar?” As Luthra said seven years, the bench orally observed that he should be “more responsible” and added “before the next date, you tender an apology”.

The top court was hearing two separate pleas by Umrao. One of the pleas challenged a condition imposed on him by the Madras High Court, while granting anticipatory bail in the case.

The high court had said that Umrao should report before the police daily at 10.30 am and 5.30 pm for a period of 15 days and, thereafter, as and when required for interrogation. The apex court modified this condition saying that he should be before the investigating officer (IO) on April 10 and after that as and when the IO requires his presence.

The bench also passed an ad interim order saying that anticipatory bail granted to Umrao will be applicable to other FIRs registered in Tamil Nadu in connection with the tweet.

In the second petition, Umrao sought clubbing of FIRs lodged against him at different police stations in connection with the tweet. Umrao had later deleted the tweet.

Luthra said Umrao only re-tweeted news, which was already shared by some media organisations.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Tamil Nadu, said there was no other FIR where he has been named and added that a responsible member of the bar should not tweet such things, and pointed that he did not appear before police.

Umrao’s counsel argued that multiple FIRs were lodged against his client at the behest of some political workers and Umrao is being harassed.

Rohatgi submitted that Umrao also did not file an affidavit, as per direction of the high court, saying he should file an undertaking not to tweet or forward any message that promotes enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language etc.

After hearing arguments, the bench told Umrao’s counsel that his client should appear before the police and also issued notice to the state government on his plea. Luthra submitted that there is a possibility that police might arrest him.

According to the police, an FIR was registered against Umrao under various sections of the IPC, which included provocation with intent to cause riot, promoting enmity and hatred, provoking breach of peace and statement leading to public mischief. -IANS

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