The Allahabad High Court on Wednesday, 25 May, quashed Uttar Pradesh Police’s First Information Report (FIR) against The Wire’s Founding Editor Siddharth Varadarajan and reporter Ismat Ara over a report on a protester who died during the Republic Day mayhem last year in New Delhi.
According to copy of the FIR, Varadarjan and Ara had been charged under Sections 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration) and 505(2) (statements conducing to public mischief) of the IPC has been filed in UP’s Rampur district.
The FIR was based on the complaint by one Sanju Turaha, a resident of Rampur district.
Rampur police had lodged the FIR alleging that the report misled the public and sought to “provocate the masses, spread riot, tarnish the image of medical officers by proving wrong the panel of medical officers.”
'No Written or Spoken Words to Provoke or Incite People'
A division bench comprising Justices Ashwani Kumar Mishra and Rajnish Kumar held that the petitioner’s report was giving the version of the family of the victim who had died of bullet injuries, reported LiveLaw.
The bench added that the report was factual and did not contain any opinion on the events that happened during the farmers’ protests “which may have the effect of provocating or inciting the people.”
The court stated that written or spoken words can constitute an offence under Section 152B only if they have tendency to create public disorder or affect public tranquility.
“Nothing was also brought before this court to indicate that there was any disturbance or riot which may have any bearing on public disorder on account of the publication of news/tweet of the petitioners.”
Uttar Pradesh Police had filed an FIR against Varadarajan, on 31 January, for tweeting an article published by the news website on a farmer who died during farmers' protest on Republic Day 2021.
Varadarajan had shared the article with a direct quote by Hardeep Singh Dibdiba – the deceased youth’s grandfather.
UP Police said they have also added the website The Wire.in and reporter Ismat Ara’s name in the same FIR as the story had her byline.
Soon after the FIR was filed against him, Varadarajan wrote on Twitter, “In UP, it is a crime for media to report statements of relatives of a dead person if they question a postmortem or police version of cause of death.”
(With inputs from LiveLaw.)