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Allahabad High Court Grants Protection From Arrest To 'The Wire's Siddharth Varadarajan And Ismat Ara In FIR Over Report On Farm Law Protestor's Death

Sparsh Upadhyay
7 Nov 2021 3:33 PM GMT
Allahabad High Court Grants Protection From Arrest To The Wires Siddharth Varadarajan And Ismat Ara In FIR Over Report On Farm Law Protestors Death
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The Allahabad High Court recently granted interim protection from arrest to The Wire's founding editor Siddharth Varadarajan and reporter Ismat Ara in connection with a case registered against them for tweeting a report on the death of a protester in New Delhi during the Republic Day incidents as it allegedly "mislead people".The Bench of Justice Mahesh Chandra Tripathi and Justice...

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The Allahabad High Court recently granted interim protection from arrest to The Wire's founding editor Siddharth Varadarajan and reporter Ismat Ara in connection with a case registered against them for tweeting a report on the death of a protester in New Delhi during the Republic Day incidents as it allegedly "mislead people".

The Bench of Justice Mahesh Chandra Tripathi and Justice Subhash Vidyarthi has also called for a counter-affidavit from the State of Uttar Pradesh within 3 weeks.

Background of the Case

Essentially, the Court was dealing with a plea filed by Siddharth Varadarajan and Ara seeking quashing of an FIR filed 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 (farm law protestor who died during the protest in Delhi.)

In the story (written by Ismat Ara) tweeted by them, it was claimed that the grandfather of the protestor, Hardeep Singh Dibdibiya had said that he was told by one of the doctors from the panel of doctors who conducted the post-mortem that the youth had died due to a bullet injury and since his (doctor's) hands were tied, he could not do anything.

However, later on, the Rampur police had tweeted a statement saying that the doctors involved in Navreet Singh's post-mortem had denied the fact that 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.

Further, an FIR was registered on the complaint of a Rampur resident, Sanju Turaiha. In his complaint, he had claimed that The Wire's quoted the doctor to mislead people and this article had led to anger among the common people in Rampur and had given rise to tension.

It may be noted that the Supreme Court had, in September 2021, 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).

Read more about the case here: Supreme Court Grants 2 Months Protection To 'The Wire' Journalists From 3 UP Police FIRS; Asks Them To Move HC For Quashing

It may be noted that Allahabad High Court, while granting them the protection from coercive action, also took into account the September 8, 2021 order of the Supreme Court in which two months protection was granted to the "The Wire" and three of its reporters from three FIRs registered against them by the Uttar Pradesh Police over some of the reports published by the portal.

However, the Supreme Court said that to entertain the matter directly will open a "Pandora's Box" and asked them to approach the High Court for quashing the FIRs.

"We are aware of fundamental rights and don't want freedom of the press to be muzzled", the presiding judge Justice L Nageswara Rao had said, while adding that the journalists should have approached the High Court first than coming to the Supreme Court directly.

Importantly, a similar order has been passed by the High Court in the writ petition filed by Foundation for Independent Journalism (the company which owns "The Wire") regarding the Loni Border Case (over The Wire's Report about the attack on an old Muslim man at Ghaziabad).

Both the matters will be heard separately by the High Court on November 24.

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