Faux pas by Mumbai cops: Arnab wants to know…

Faux pas by Mumbai cops: Arnab wants to know
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Faux pas by Mumbai cops: Arnab wants to know

Highlights

Following the gaffe committed by the Mumbai police which otherwise enjoys high reputation as an efficient and upright police force in the country, in registering an FIR against the Republic TV of which senior journalist Arnab Goswami is a promoter

Following the gaffe committed by the Mumbai police which otherwise enjoys high reputation as an efficient and upright police force in the country, in registering an FIR against the Republic TV of which senior journalist Arnab Goswami is a promoter, the media world has been agog and awe-struck with several basic questions including the freedom of expression guaranteed under Article 19(1) of the Constitution of India and its line of control called the Lakshman Rekha in popular parlance.

The FIR in question names the Republic TV as an accused while facts of the complaint as revealed by the Republic TV claiming to have been quoted from the said FIR are totally unrelated to the 'accused' Republic TV. On the other hand, true or false notwithstanding, they relate to the India Today TV. The Mumbai Police Commissioner, apparently unaware of this faux pas, in a hurriedly called media conference, came down heavily on the Republic TV.

The top cop of Mumbai went to the extent of alleging that the Republic TV had purchased and manipulated higher ratings from the BARC, a rating organisation. The Commissioner added that Arnab Goswami's sources of wealth also would be investigated. Obviously, enraged with such serious allegations made by the Mumbai police chief, the flamboyant journalist, devoted a lot of time on his channel to take the Mumbai police and its Commissioner Param Bir Singh to the task for attributing criminal activities purported to have been committed by another channel.

In fact, the messing up of the contents of the said FIR, reveals more than the eyes meet. It is simply not a case of 'printer's devil' or 'typographical error' or 'slip of pen' as a result of which the Republic TV has been named as an accused while the contents are totally pointing an accusing finger towards the India TV. Going by the ongoing most vociferous campaign carried out by the Republic TV against allegedly politically motivated Mumbai police in recent times, the battle flags have been unfurled.

The acrimonious situation between the media and police has occurred at a time when the Supreme Court has sounded a caution about exercising the freedom of expression by the print and electronic media. Though it has supported the freedom guaranteed under the Constitution to a large extent. Following this, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court too has recently dismissed a complaint filed against a senior journalist of the Times of India upholding the freedom of expression of the media.

At the same time, a self regulatory body of the media called the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) has fined heavily some popular television channels for crossing the Lakshman Rekha. Equally it is true that bureaucracy without any exception too tends to bow before its political masters quite often. It is not too long ago that the apex court was constrained to describe the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as 'a parrot in cage', though subsequently the CBI also got appreciation for good work from the same apex court which wiped out the earlier blot.

Perhaps Mumbai police is following the footsteps of the CBI before it got the clean chit from the apex court. A mention of similar behaviour by the Telangana police supports this narrative. At the time of hearing of a case of assault in a special court for trial of cases against MPs and MLAs wherein the MP from Hyderabad, Asaduddin Owaisi is an accused, the police filed a supplementary charge sheet deleting the MP's name from the list of accused. However, the law took its own course and refused to delete Owaisi's name from the charge sheet.

Apart from the burning question of the freedom of expression, there is another angle to the whole issue. As has been seen in the recent times, the anti-nationals, Jehadis, terrorists and other divisive forces with the latent and patent support of disgruntled political elements have been at their best to ensure that media-war breaks out and a chaotic situation of disinformation is created so that not only the credibility of the lawfully elected government of the day comes under cloud but also a big question mark on the unity, integrity and sovereignty of the country is put so that in the comity of nations, India loses its face.

SC's observation on Sec. 164 CrPC

In an important observation on the right of an accused to copies of any of the relevant documents including statement under Sec. 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the Supreme Court observed that as of right, an accused cannot claim them before taking cognizance by the court.

"The right to receive copies of the relevant documents including the statement recorded under Sec 164 of CrPC will arise only after the cognizance is taken and at the stage contemplated by Sec. 207 and 208 of the code and not before", said a three judge bench headed by Justice Uday Umesh Lalit. The above observation of the apex court came in Criminal Appeal No. 659/2020 in the case of Ms.'A' v. State of Uttar Pradesh where a former Minister is an accused in a Rape case.

Balance fund released towards relief for lawyers

The Telangana government has released the balance of Rs10 crore funds for the welfare of poor and needy advocates. Earlier, the government had released Rs15 crore which were disbursed through the High Court among 15,000 advocates and their clerks at the rate of Rs.10,000 and Rs5,000 each respectively.

Similarly, a batch of petitions is pending adjudication by the Supreme Court in which the legal fraternity has sought the relief of Rs 20 lakh interest-free loan to each of the needy lawyers in the present Covid-19 pandemic.

The government rendering financial assistance either by way of dole or loan to the legal fraternity is understandable, but the moot question here is if the Covid-19 pandemic is the ground for such financial largesse, then it has engulfed all people including the unemployed, under employed and self employed. Then, why leave engineers, architects, barbers, plumbers, washermen and cobblers etc; from such concessions or free bies?

Lawyer in dock for abuse of law

In a rare show of stubbornness, the Telangana High Court directed an advocate to appear before it and explain why he had filed two separate cases in the land grabbing matter with the similar pleas.

The first bench comprising Chief Justice Raghavendra Singh Chauhan and B.Vijaysen Reddy made it clear that the court will not tolerate any attempts to abuse its process.

Chinnolla Naresh Reddy was the counsel in the PIL filed against revenue officials alleging their inaction in the phase of land grabbing of public spaces such as parks, play grounds etc. He had also filed as a petitioner, another case with the similar plea for relief which invited wrath of the High Court.

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