Kanojia’s Arrest is ‘Illegal’: Lawyers Rebecca John, Karuna Nundy
Freelance journalist Prashant Kanojia was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police on Saturday, 8 June, for allegedly trying to “malign” Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s image via a social media post.
Senior advocate Rebecca John tells The Quint that almost all provisions of the CrPc and the IPC were violated in the arrest of Kanojia.
“The FIR itself is legally untenable,”John said, adding that both Section 66 of the Information Technologies Act and Section 500 of the IPC are inapplicable to the facts of the present case.
Karuna Nundy, a Supreme Court advocate also pointed out similar problems with the FIR and the arrest.
Speaking to The Quint, she said: “(Section) 500 is private complaint so the role of the police is practically non-existent and because it’s a private complaint, it’s also bailable. There’s no question of any arrest! And Section 66 refers to the tampering of a computer system which is not even the allegation against him. Therefore, the FIR is not something that should even have been registered.”
Initially Kanojia was charged under Section 500 (for defamation) of the IPC and Section 66 of the IT Act. However, a press note released by the Uttar Pradesh Police after his arrest mentioned that Section 505 of the IPC (for spreading rumours) was added and Section 66 of the IT Act was being replaced by Section 67 (obscenity).
‘Unconstitutional Misuse of State Powers’
Commenting on the new charges pressed by the police, John said: “Section 505, in its true application, cannot be invoked in the present case. To satisfy the test of 505, there must be a community of people – either religious, linguistic, or otherwise – who are aggrieved by the offence committed by the individual... which doesn’t seem to be the case here.”
Nundy also spoke about the misuse of law in this case. “What is happening is complete unconstitutional misuse of state powers and partly in extreme ignorance of the CrPc,” she said.
The police refused to confirm which social media post Kanojia had been arrested for. The last video shared by the journalist on his Facebook profile was on 6 June, where a woman is seen speaking to several reporters outside the CM Adityanath’s office, alleging that she had been talking to him for nearly a year through video calls.
“One is not saying that Adityanath cannot bring a complaint of defamation as an individual but what he’s doing here is using the state machinery and the police to kidnap a journalist because he doesn’t like what was said about him, as opposed to whatever remedies would be available to him.”Karuna Nundy, SC Lawyer, to The Quint
John, meanwhile, said that the UP police should circumspect why it found it necessary to arrest a man “on such innocuous facts”.
“The only offence that Prashant seems to have committed, according to the UP police, is to retweet a video with an innocuous comment of his own on top. I do not think it warrants action of this kind... I don’t think any of the provisions invoked by the UP police are applicable to the facts and circumstances of the case,” John said.
“I believe the arrest was completely unnecessary and the registration of the FIR itself was completely unnecessary,” she added.
(With inputs from PTI)