The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider the option of ordering a CBI probe into the death of an Uttar Pradesh-based journalist Jagendra Singh, who was allegedly killed at the behest of a state minister.
A bench, led by Justice M Y Eqbal, issued notices to the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government on a PIL demanding the transfer of the probe to the CBI due the apprehension that the accused minister can influence the local police.
The bench has also sought a response from the Press Council of India (PCI) and fixed the matter for hearing after two weeks.
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The PIL, seeking a CBI probe into the death of Jagendra Singh, has been moved by Satish Jain, a Delhi-based journalist, through senior lawyer Adish C Aggarwala and advocate Aditya Singh.
Jagendra was allegedly set on fire by the police officials during a raid at his house in Awas Vikas Colony of Sadar Bazar area in Sahjahanpur on June 1. He succumbed to his injuries on June 8.
An FIR, under charges of murder and conspiracy, was later registered against ruling Samajwadi Party minister Ram Murti Singh Verma and five policemen on a complaint filed by the Journalist’s son Raghvendra after Jagendra’s death.
“On 1 June, according to his family members, a group of policemen and goons came in two cars in late afternoon and barged into his house in Shahjahanpur. Initially, they had an argument with him reminding him he had been repeatedly told not to write anything about Verma, then they pinned him down, poured petrol on him and set him on fire,” the petition said.
It said that Jagendra invited Ram Murti Verma’s ire by posting reports on Facebook about illegal mining activities and land grabbing against the minister.
“The fact that police officials and a senior politician are accused in the case has shaken the confidence of public in investigation being conducted by the state police. No arrest has been made by the state police and there is every likelihood of destruction of evidence by them,” the petition said, adding in spite of all the evidence, “no arrest has been made by the state police” in the case.
It added: “Safety of Indian journalists has long been compromised, particularly in small towns where local authorities can wield enormous power. According to PCI, a statutory press watchdog group, 79 journalists were murdered in the past two and a half years in India, with very few convictions.”
The Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court had on June 16 directed the UP government to inform it about the status of the probe by June 24 on a PIL filed by an NGO, ‘We The People’.