Punjab and Haryana HC grants bail to farmer-activist booked for sedition

CHANDIGARH: Punjab and Haryana High Court on Tuesday granted bail to farmer-activist from Jind, Dalbir Singh, who was booked by Haryana Police for sedition and other charges.

Singh had filed two petitions seeking regular bail in the FIR registered in February 2017 with sedition and other charges against him and another case registered on May 24, 2021 by the Haryana Police in Jind district.

According to the two FIRs, the petitioner had given objectionable speeches against Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar which could have resulted in caste-based division and were a threat to the peace and harmony of the society.

Singh was arrested days after the registration of the second FIR.

He had moved the high court against the state of Haryana by filing two petitions through senior Congress leader and advocate Randeep Singh Surjewala and counsel R Kartikeya for regular bail in the FIR registered in 2017 and in May this year at Jind’s Sadar Police Station.

Freedom of speech is a fundamental right and makes a foundation for a strong democracy, Justice Avneesh Jhingan said in his order.

“While dealing with the petitions for grant of regular bail, this court has no occasion to consider the merits of the allegations in detail. Suffice to say that freedom of speech is a fundamental right and makes a foundation for a strong democracy.

“At this stage must hasten to add that embargo to freedom of speech is prescribed in Article 19 of the Constitution of India itself,” the court said.

The court said the nature of contents of the speeches would be subject matter of trial as to whether it was a lawful protest against the policies and working of the government or had a different goal and intention.

“Be that as it may, the investigation in both the cases is complete. Conclusion of trial is likely to take time. On mere apprehension that bail will be misused, it would not be appropriate to deny petitioner of his personal liberty.

“The petitioner is granted bail, subject to furnishing surety bail bonds to the tune of Rs 2 lakh each in both the FIRs before the Chief Judicial Magistrate/Duty Magistrate concerned.”

The judge, in his order, further mentioned that “needless to say that in case there is a misuse of bail granted to the petitioner, the state would always be at liberty to apply for cancellation of the bail order”.

The counsels for the petitioner had submitted that it is a case of false implication.

It was argued that the petitioner was only exercising his fundamental right to protest.

Petitioner has a right to criticise the functioning of the state, they submitted.

The counsel for the state opposed the bail while submitting that if enlarged on bail, Singh would indulge in similar activities and will create a law and order problem.