India's Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the immediate release on bail of a journalist arrested at the weekend and remanded to 11 days' judicial custody over social media posts allegedly defaming a local politician.
The bench said legal proceedings against Prashant Kanojia could continue but that ‘incarceration’ was not appropriate, said S Farasat, a lawyer representing Kanojia.
Kanojia was arrested in Delhi on Saturday by the Uttar Pradesh police on charges that he had made defamatory posts against the state's chief minister, Yogi Adityanath.
Adityanath belongs to India's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.
Three other journalists were arrested on similar charges over the weekend, according to local media.
A body consisting of the country's top editors has criticized the arrests, calling them a misuse of authority and an attempt to intimidate the media.
The journalists had shared or aired a video that showed a woman talking to reporters, saying she was in love with the Uttar Pradesh chief minister.
Charges against Kanojia also included earlier allegedly inflammatory tweets about Hindu gods and other political figures, according to legal reporting website Bar&Bench.
‘A citizen's right to liberty has been infringed. We have gone through the records ... These sort of tweets should not be made, but arrest?’ Bar&Bench quoted judge Indira Banerjee as saying during court proceedings.
The two-judge bench said legal proceedings against Kanojia could continue.
Kanojia has been charged with offences under Indian law relating to defamation and publishing obscene material on digital media.
India ranks 140 out of 180 countries in the global press freedom index of Reporters Without Borders.