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‘It Could Have Killed Me’: Scribe Hurt at Farm Stir Seeks FIR on Haryana Cops

Niel Bhalinder Singh Saini, injured by a tear gas shell while covering farmers' protest, has moved the High Court.

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A Punjab journalist, who received injuries from tear gas shelling while covering the farmers’ protest at the Shambhu Border on 13 February, has moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court, seeking registration of FIRs against the Haryana Police officials allegedly responsible for his injuries.

In his petition before the court on 22 February, Niel Bhalinder Singh Saini, political editor at digital platform ‘Punjab Sawera’, stated that while covering the protest on 13 February, he sustained "severe head injuries as a result of being struck by a tear gas shell fired by the Haryana Police in jurisdiction of Punjab".

Saini has contended that the tear gas shell, which was fired by a drone, struck on his head, resulting in a 5cm-deep cut.

Recounting the day while talking to The Quint, Saini alleged, “I was covering the farmers’ protest on the Punjab side of the Shambhu border. I was at the very fore. A tear gas shelling struck an elderly man on his thigh. As a result, he started vomiting. I took my cameraperson there to cover him. Some farmers were also trying to defuse the shells using gunny-bags.”

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“Another tear gas shell was fired at the same place. All of a sudden, a drone came there, firing tear gas shells at the farmers. Luckily, I saw it. I tried to outrun it, but the shelling was so fast that it struck me right on the head. I received a 5cm-deep cut, blood was flowing everywhere. Had I not seen it, it could have killed me…”
Neil Bhalinder Singh Saini, Journalist and petitioner
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    Journalist Niel Bhalinder Singh Saini got injured at Shambhu Border on 13 February

    (Photo: Niel Bhalinder Singh Saini)

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    The journalist received a 5cm-deep cut on his head from a tear gas shell

    (Photo: Niel Bhalinder Singh; Altered by The Quint)

Questions On Press Freedom, 'Territorial Jurisdiction'

In the plea, accessed by The Quint, the journalist has also contended that the police action while trying to disperse the protesters constituted a “clear violation” of his right to life and personal liberty under Article 21, as well as the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.

It questioned the alleged attack on several other journalists, calling it a “grave violation” of the freedom of press.

Saini’s plea also questions the “authority and accountability of Haryana Police authorities in taking actions that impact individuals within another state’s (Punjab’s) jurisdiction”, seeking judicial intervention to address the “cross-border implications of the alleged misconduct”.

The Shambhu border separates Punjab’s Patiala from Haryana’s Ambala district. 

Niel said, “I am a citizen of Punjab, reporting in the territorial jurisdiction of Punjab. How can the Haryana Police attack me in my own state?”

In view of the above, the plea sought investigation into the case and registration of FIRs against the police officials responsible for the journalist’s injuries. It also sought that the court directs the police officials to restrain from “extreme action” on journalists and innocent civilians at the Shambhu Border.

The matter has been listed before the Punjab and Haryana High Court for Monday, 26 February.

Advocate Devpreet Sidhu, who along with Adv Hakam Singh appeared before the court on behalf of Saini on February 22, told The Quint she was “confident” the court would rule in their favour. 

“We will get him justice. He was just doing his job and was shot by the Haryana Police within the jurisdiction of Punjab,” she added.

The Quint reached out to the Haryana Police PRO and the office of the Haryana Director General of Police, both of whom refused to comment on the case.

Plea seeking investigation into Shubhkaran’s death

Another plea filed before the Punjab and Haryana High Court has sought an investigation by a retired HC judge into the “homicide” of the 21-year-old Shubhkaran Singh, who died after sustaining injuries to his head at the Khanauri Border on 21 February.

The matter has been listed before the HC for 29 February.

The Quint had earlier reported how the medical superintendent at Patiala’s Rajendra Hospital had confirmed that the injury on his head looked like a “bullet injury”.

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