NEW DELHI: In a big relief to Zee News anchor Rohit Ranjan, the Supreme Court on Friday directed the concerned authorities not to take any coercive steps against him in connection with multiple FIRs lodged against him for running an alleged doctored video of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.
The order was passed by the vacation bench of the SC comprising Justices Indira Banerjee and J K Maheshwari
In a petition filed through, lawyers’ firm Karanjawala and Co, the news anchor sought relief including the quashing of FIRs or complaints or their clubbing and transfer to one place.
Ranjan has also sought a direction that no coercive action be taken against him for the withdrawn programme for which he and the channel have apologised. The petition has sought security for the journalist, his family members, and his colleagues associated with the programme in question.
“The present writ petition is being filed under Article 32 of the Constitution praying for the quashing /clubbing of almost identical criminal complaints. FIRs were filed across the country against the petitioner. The petitioner prays for the stay of coercive action during the pendency of the present petition,” the plea said.
It said Ranjan “anchored /hosted a programme on Zee News on July 1, 2022. The news show inadvertently misattributed certain quotes and the error was immediately rectified. An unconditional apology was tendered by the petitioner and Zee News and the news show was withdrawn even prior to the registration or filing of any FIR and complaint”.
However, subsequently, multiple FIRs and complaints have been filed against the petitioner under various provisions of law for the same incident and were almost set right by the petitioner, it said.
Referring to various judgements, it said, there can be no second FIR and consequently there can be no fresh investigation in respect of the same cognizable offence or incident giving rise to one or more cognizable offences.
“Since it is impossible for the petitioner to approach various courts/police stations all over the country in respect of such FIRs/complaints, the present writ petition is being filed under Article 32 against the violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (a) (freedom of speech and expression) and Article 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Constitution,” it said.
On Tuesday, a police team from Chhattisgarh reached Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad town to arrest the anchor from his home but he was instead arrested by the Noida police who released him on bail later on Tuesday night.
“Zee News anchor Rohit Ranjan was picked up from his home for questioning on Tuesday morning by a team from Noida Sector-20 police station in connection with an FIR lodged under IPC 505 (public mischief) on a complaint by his own channel over a doctored video played during his show on July 1,” a Noida police officer said.
In Raipur, Senior Superintendent of Police Prashant Agrawal said that a case was registered against Ranjan and others at Zee News on Sunday for allegedly promoting enmity between different groups and outraging religious feelings of people based on a complaint by Congress MLA Devendra Yadav.
In his complaint, Yadav said a video, in which Gandhi described those attacking his Wayanad office as children and said he had no ill-will against them, was “mischievously” used by the TV channel on July 1 to suggest he was forgiving the killers of Udaipur tailor Kanhaiya Lal.
The FIR in Raipur was lodged under IPC sections, including 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class), 467 (forgery), 469 (forgery to harm reputation), 504 (intentional insult).
On July 2, a day after the video was aired, Ranjan apologised for mistakenly playing Gandhi’s statement out of context by linking it with the Udaipur murder case. “It was a human error for which our team is apologetic. We apologise for it,” he had tweeted in Hindi. One of the FIRs has also been lodged in Rajasthan as well for the same incident.