The wife of Delhi-based journalist Prashant Kanojia today (Monday, June 10) moved the Supreme Court challenging his arrest on Saturday evening for allegedly “propagating defamatory content” against Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
The top court will hear the matter tomorrow.
Kanojiawas been arrested after he allegedly shared a video on Twitter and Facebook in which a woman is seen speaking to reporters of various media organisations outside Yogi Adityanath’s office, claiming that she had sent him a marriage proposal.
Kanojia, 26, was arrested after a complaint by a sub-inspector in Lucknow’s Hazratganj Police Station, under charges relating to Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 66 of the IT Act.
He was picked up from his Delhi home on Saturday morning and sent to jail in the evening.He is currently lodged in Lucknow Jail.
The woman has also been arrested.
A total of five people have been arrested over two days on charges of posting allegedly objectionable content about the Chief Minister, NDTV reported.
Among them is the head of a Noida-based news channel that had broadcast the video that Kanojia posted, along with one of the editors of the channel. A fourth person Raju Singh Yadav was also arrested for allegedly uploading morphed photographs of the CM and the Kanpur-based woman on his Facebook account.
Senior superintendent of police (SSP) of Lucknow, KalanidhiNaithani, said the initial probe provided evidence against Kanojia under Section 505 of IPC for making, publishing or circulating false statements, report or rumour and under Section 67 of the Information Technology Act for transmitting obscene material in electronic form, said a Hindustan Times (HT) report.
The SSP said the FIR against Kanojia was earlier registered under Section 500 of the IPC (defamation) and Section 66 of the IT Act (computer-related offences) at Hazratganj police station on Friday night. But police did not provide any corroborative evidence about the new sections, or whether a magistrate had signed off on the defamation charge, according to HT.
On Sunday, police added fresh charges against Prashant Kanojia. Police also sealed the premises of a private television news channel in Noida for allegedly running without a licence, a day after arresting its chief and editor, also for broadcasting content allegedly defaming Adityanath, said media reports.
Jagisha Arora, Kanojia’s wife, has claimed the police officers who arrested her husband failed to follow proper procedure and therefore his arrest is illegal.
A report by The Indian Express quoted Arora as saying: “We don’t know the woman in the video either. It’s sarcasm and that’s not a crime… Will the police arrest everyone who questions the government? I stand by his right to post anything on social media.”
“I don’t have much clarity myself. It all happened in five minutes or so. Prashant had gone downstairs. When he came back, he said he has to change his clothes as he has to go with the two men,” Arora told NDTV on Sunday evening.
ShadanFarasat, Arora’s advocate, told the court the first information report (FIR) against Kanojia was illegal and that no warrant had been issued.
“FIR is illegal because under defamation law there is no need for FIR and it is only for the magistrate to act, not the police,” he explained and added, “The offenses mentioned in FIR are bailable.”
Arora in her petition has asked the court to direct the Uttar Pradesh government to immediately release her husband, and take action against the police officers involved in his arrest.
“The station house officer made me speak to my husband yesterday (Saturday) at 10.30 in the night. He told me he is okay and asked me to stay well too,” she told NDTV.
The police action has sparked outrage in media circles. The Editors Guild of India condemned the arrests and called the police action “high-handed, arbitrary and amounting to an authoritarian misuse of laws”. In a statement released on Sunday, it said the arrests were “an effort to intimidate the press and stifle freedom of expression”.
The Editors Guild of India has issued a statement pic.twitter.com/fdczdNDwyz
— Editors Guild of India (@IndEditorsGuild) June 9, 2019