The Allahabad High Court has granted interim protection from arrest to journalists Siddharth Varadarajan and Ismat Ara of The Wire, for tweeting a report on the death of a protester in New Delhi during the Republic Day incidents as it allegedly “misled people”.
The Bench of Justice Mahesh Chandra Tripathi and Justice Subhash Vidyarthi also called for a counter affidavit from the State of Uttar Pradesh within three weeks, reported Live Law. The HC was hearing a plea filed by Siddharth Varadarajan and Ismat Ara seeking quashing of an FIR against them under IPC sections 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) and 505(2) (statements creating or promoting enmity between classes) for tweeting a story on Navreet Singh Dibdibiya, the deceased protester.
Ismat Ara had interviewed Hardeep Singh Dibdibiya, the deceased protest Navreet’s grandfather, who claimed that he had been told by a doctor that the young man “died due to a bullet injury” and the since “his (doctor’s) hands were tied, he could not do anything.” The Wire’s editor Siddharth Varadarajan, has been regularly named in complaints and FIRs have been lodged against him in Uttar Pradesh.
The FIR, lodged at Rampur’s Civil Lines police station in February 2021, was based on a complaint filed by one Sanju Turaiha, a resident of Rampur in Uttar Pradesh. Varadarajan was charged under Sections 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) and 505(2) (statements creating or promoting enmity between classes) of the IPC. It was alleged that social media posts allegedly “misled people” on the death of Navreet Singh Dibdibiya, a protester in New Delhi on Republic Day in New Delhi.
However, according to the LL report Rampur police had tweeted a statement saying that the doctors involved in Navreet Singh’s post-mortem had denied that they had spoken “to the media or any other person” or had provided any such information as is being attributed to them in the media.
In September 2021, the Supreme Court had asked “The Wire” and three of its reporters to approach the High Court for quashing of the FIR registered against them over news reports published/written by them (including the instant article tweeted by Siddharth Varadarajan and Ara). The journalists of the news website The Wire were granted two months of interim protection from any coercive action by the Supreme Court in September. The portal, and three of its journalists were named in three separate First Information Reports (FIR) in districts Rampur, Barabanki and Ghaziabad.
Incidentally, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked India at 142nd position out of 180 countries in its 2021 World Press Freedom Index. In India journalists have been easy targets for complaints and FIRs being lodged against them for various reasons, most commonly, just for doing their jobs as reporters and editors.
The orders may be read here: