In the petition filed on November 29, CJP has detailed how the intimidation from administration and police –including threats to file false cases – arose after Mishra’s not only broke the story but pursued coverage of the Sultanpur rape case that took place in September 2019.
Dharmendra Mishra is a recognised journalist working with an established publishing house from their Uttar Pradesh office in Sultanpur, Uttar Pradesh. He is known for unbiased and brave coverage of crucial stories that reveal corruption and injustice, and is the recipient of a national award from Indian Media Welfare Association along with an order by the World Health Organization. The government has initiated many inquiries on the basis of his investigative journalism.
As the application notes, due to his brave journalism, Mr. Mishra is being allegedly threatened by the Superintendent of Sultanpur, Uttar Pradesh Himanshu Kumar. Mr. Mishra has stated that Kumar has threatened him on his way to work and had other people threaten him in his Sultanpur office. Dharmendra Mishra is also under the apprehension that Kumar has roped in a local politician and a local gangster to threaten him for his life. The said local politician had earlier pressurised Mr. Mishra to write positive news article about him during the state elections.
The journalist in question, Dharmendta Mishra has been harassed to the extent that in September, he has filed a complaint with the offices of the Prime Minister as well Uttar Pradesh’s Chief Minister explaining the facts of the case and the apprehension of threat to his life. In his complaints, he has said Himanshu Kumar, his department and the local Sultanpur administration should be held responsible for any untoward incidents that may occur in the future, such as an attack or assault on him or any imposition of false cases or even worse, his death.
In the NHRC petition, CJP has prayed that the Commission take suo motu cognisance of this case under the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA), conduct an investigation against the Superintendent of Sultanpur Himanshu Kumar and take stern action as probable under the PHRA.
On September 10, villagers from Baijapur in Sultanpur district of Uttar Pradesh woke up to the mutilated body of a young girl hung from a tree, not much unlike the Badaun rape case. The incident was also reminiscent of the Nirbhaya rape case given how a stick had been inserted in the victim’s private parts. But even after all this time, police investigations have proceeded at a snail’s pace, with allegations of deliberate delays and procedural lapses. Then, CJP had moved the National Human Rights Commission to intervene in the matter to ensure justice. The NHRC has issued notice to the UP authorities following this complaint.
CJP’s petition emphasises that “the police, clearly failed to follow protocol in terms of primary investigation and on top of that are making false claims with respect to the post mortem and are representing false facts and the reason for the same is still unknown.” Our petition urges the National Human Rights Commission to “take suo motu cognisance of this case under the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA)” and also seeks “an inquiry into this case involving the SP of Sultanpur District and the police personnel concerned with this case (FIR no. 0423 of 2019)”
The petition observes that the press is considered to be the fourth estate of a democracy. It quotes the Madras High Court in saying, “If the voice of the Fourth Estate is stifled in this manner, India will become a Nazi State and the hard labour of our freedom fighters and makers of our Constitution will go down the drain.”
Last year, India ranked 138 in the Freedom of Press Index released by Reporters with Borders. “Brave and investigative journalism can only thrive in a conducive environment that safeguards its freedom and where there is no constant threat to life,” the application states.
The petition memo to the NHRC may be read below.
Sultanpur rape case: CJP moves NHRC citing lacunae in police investigation
Mutilated body of girl found hanging from tree in Sultanpur, Badaun 2.0?
Over a fortnight, no arrests: Activists protest ‘police inaction’ in Sultanpur rape case: UP