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"Press Has Right To Report": Allahabad HC Reserves Order On Plea By Umar Gautam Against Media Trial In Religious Conversion Racket Case

Sparsh Upadhyay
2 July 2021 9:17 AM GMT
Press Has Right To Report: Allahabad HC Reserves Order On Plea By Umar Gautam Against Media Trial In Religious Conversion Racket Case
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The Bench of Justice Ramesh Sinha and Justice Vikas Srivastava asked the Counsel for the Petitioner: "Press has the right to report. Have you read Justice Chandrachud's Judgment of Supreme Court?"

The Allahabad High Court has reserved an order on a plea moved by Umar Gautam, who is accused of being part of a nationwide religious conversion racket. seeking restriction on the media from misreporting & making premature statements in relation to their case.The Bench of Justice Ramesh Sinha and Justice Vikas Srivastava asked the Counsel for the Petitioner:"Press has the right to...

The Allahabad High Court has reserved an order on a plea moved by Umar Gautam, who is accused of being part of a nationwide religious conversion racket. seeking restriction on the media from misreporting & making premature statements in relation to their case.

The Bench of Justice Ramesh Sinha and Justice Vikas Srivastava asked the Counsel for the Petitioner:

"Press has the right to report. Have you read Justice Chandrachud's Judgment of Supreme Court?"

Umar Gautam, who himself converted to Islam from the Hindu faith, has been accused of converting 1,000 persons in U.P. and allegedly got many of them married to Muslims. 

He was arrested last month by the UP police Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) on the charges of mass conversion of people into Islam through inducements such as marriage, job and money, and mental pressure.

Further, he filed the instant plea before the Allahabad High Court challenging the leaking of sensitive and controversial information about himself and prohibiting the untrue reports from being published/ televised in the print and TV media.

He has been book under sections 420, 120-B, 153-A, 153-B, 295-A, 5411 and Sections 3 and 5 Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of religious Act, 2021 alleging mass scale conversion of around 1000 persons especially deaf and mute students, women, children and those from weaker and vulnerable sections through inducements such as marriage, job and money and mental pressure and the petitioner was arrested in the aforementioned FIR

Calling himself an Islamic scholar and a religious preacher, he has submitted that he was being illegally framed in false cases with the sole intention to harass the petitioner with false cases.

Averments in the plea

He has sought a prohibition order against publication and broadcast by various news outlets (including Zee News, Aajtak and OpIndia), of highly sensitive / confidential information in connection with ongoing criminal investigations against him.

He has alleged that the news outlets have made various statements based on purported Press Release dated 20.06.2021 issued by the Respondent Investigating agency and that the sole aim is to vilify and severely prejudice the fair trial rights of the Petitioner.

He has also submitted that UP police (via press briefing) did not confine the information to the essential facts of the case and rather, disclosed the facts to the media which are speculative, unconfirmed and judgemental towards him and which caused irreversibly and irreparably prejudice to the Petitioner in his attempts to secure his liberty and prove his innocence.

Significantly, he has submitted:

"The published articles based on statements purportedly made by the Petitioner — which are wholly inadmissible, a product of coercion, and do not contain an iota of truth — have caused severe prejudice to the Petitioner's right to a fair investigation and trial as secured under Article 21 of the Constitution. The fact that the news items, which could only be based on police material, were published at a time when the investigation is pending and the petitioner is still in Police custody strongly suggests that the same is the product of mala fide machinations on part of the Respondent State / Investigating Agency, and part of a concerted effort to conduct an unlawful trial by media against the Petitioner herein."

Prayers in the plea

  • Directing UP Police and UP Government not to leak any allegations pertaining to the Petitioner to the media pending investigation and thereafter during trial. Also, directing Respondent No.1 to withdraw all allegations contained in the Press Release dated 20.06.2021.
  • Directing media outlets to take down the sensitive/confidential information leaked to them by the officials.
  • Issuing guidelines on media reporting of ongoing criminal investigations;
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