A camp court at the Jharpada Jail in Bhubaneswar has declined defence analyst Abhijit Iyer-Mitra’s bail plea. Iyer-Mitra has been in custody since October 24 for allegedly ‘hurting the religious sentiments’ of the people of Odisha.
This is the second time that the court has rejected his bail plea. Earlier, Iyer was sent to a 14-day judicial custody and lodged at Jharpara jail after his bail plea was rejected by the Bhubaneswar Sub Divisional Judicial Magistrate (SDJM).
Advocates of the Odisha High Court have been on strike since August 29. An alleged assault on lawyer Debi Prasad Pattnaik by police personnel had made the advocates go on a strike. Meanwhile, camp courts with paralegals representing the parties have been set up in Jharpada Jail to try prisoners, based on a High Court order.
Abhijit Iyer Mitra was first arrested in September for allegedly derogatory comments on the Sun Temple in Konark. He had posted a satirical video on social networking website, Twitter, where he mocked the architecture of the Konark Temple. He had, in the same thread, also clarified that his video was in jest.
A Delhi court granted him bail after he furnished a security of Rs 1 lakh. The court also ordered him to join the police investigation but he did not, alleging a threat to his life. Iyer-Mitra then moved the Supreme Court for protection from arrest. On October 4, the top court refused to grant him bail, saying jail was the “safest place” for him.
On October 24, Iyer-Mitra had also apologised to the house committee of the Odisha Assembly for his comments on the Sun Temple. “I beg apology because of my stupidity,” he had said.
Manoj Joshi, head of the National Security Programme at ORF, who has earlier worked with Iyer, condemned the court’s judgement. According to Joshi, Iyer-Mitra loves to “joke and laugh around”. About him being in jail for over 20 days now for a supposedly sarcastic tweet, he said, it was a “mockery of the law.”
Many prominent people on social media too had reacted on the SC’s dismissal of Mitra’s bail petition.
The manner, I am hearing, in which @Iyervval‘s bail plea was dismissed by the CJI-led bench was downright flippant and a disgrace to the highest court.
“If your life is in danger, then what better & safer place than the prison.”
Abhijit, you are strong. We are with YOU. https://t.co/0qgGyaD7Zx
— Anand Ranganathan (@ARanganathan72) October 4, 2018
We’re slipping into a zone where #freedom is in danger. It’s outrageous that Abhijit Iyer-Mitra @Iyervval has been arrested by #Odisha Police on risible charges and denied bail. Please read and circulate my protest and appeal. Fight for your, his and everybody’s liberty. #India pic.twitter.com/gbuHebzI8g
— Kanchan Gupta (@KanchanGupta) October 24, 2018
Iyer-Mitra is the son of former IAS officer V S Chandralekha, who was later the Tamil Nadu president of Subramanian Swamy’s Janata Party, which later merged with BJP before the 2014 general elections.
Though Abhijit’s remarks stoke protests and controversies, it was also opined by many that he was being targeted because he was a guest of Baijayant Panda, the former BJD MP who was expelled from the party by BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik earlier this year. They have said that this is the Odisha CM’s vendetta politics.
The state authorities have also launched an inquiry against Panda who had taken Abhijit Mitra and journalist Arti Tikoo Singh on a chopper ride over Chilika lake. Panda’s chopper was seized by authorities in Odisha for alleged violation of norms.