Congress spokesman Pawan Khera, released on bail after his dramatic arrest this afternoon, told reporters that this is “not the only example of people’s lives and liberties being curtailed”. Mr Khera has been accused of insulting Prime Minister Narendra Modi – his release came following an order of the Supreme Court, which said it is “protecting” him.
Mr Khera was deboarded from a Raipur-bound flight at Delhi airport this afternoon and arrested by the Assam Police amid huge protests by his party colleagues. A Congress contingent was on way to the Chhattisgarh capital for the plenary session of the party that begins on Friday.
Describing the moment, Mr Khera said, “Without any notice being served to me, I was asked to deplane as if I am a terrorist. This is not the only example of people’s lives and liberties being curtailed. It can happen to anyone tomorrow”.
“Congress leaders are right when they say it’s an unsaid emergency in the country. It’s me today, tomorrow it can be anyone,” he told NDTV.
Mr Khera described his release as a “win of the judiciary”. “Thanks to them for upholding my rights,” he added.
After a huge ruckus at the airport, where Congress leaders held an impromptu protest sitting on the tarmac, the party had appealed to the Supreme Court.
Granting relief to Mr Khera till Tuesday, Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said, “There has to be some level of discourse, we are protecting you”.
The Congress has questioned the arrest over a fumble on PM Modi’s name by the veteran leader, pointing out that he has already apologised for it.
At a recent press conference, while demanding a parliamentary inquiry into the Adani-Hindenburg row, Mr Khera had said: “If Narasimha Rao could form a JPC (Joint Parliamentary Committee), if Atal Bihari Vajpayee could form a JPC, then what problem does Narendra Gautam Das…sorry Damodardas…Modi have?”
Asked about his counsel’s argument in court that his comment was a “slip of tongue”, Mr Khera said, “Whether my comments were slip of the tongue or deliberate, I wouldn’t comment on that for now”. The BJP has alleged that Mr Khera’s fumble was deliberate.
The top court has agreed to the party’s request to club the cases against Mr Khera filed in Uttar Pradesh and Assam. The next hearing will be on Tuesday.