DAYS AFTER Zee News apologised for airing a misleading video of Rahul Gandhi, linking his comments on the SFI attack at his office in Wayanad to the Udaipur killing over remarks on the Prophet, a police team from Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh reached the Ghaziabad residence of the channel’s anchor Rohit Ranjan on Tuesday to arrest him.
The police action, based on a complaint from a Congress MLA in Raipur, led to dramatic scenes with UP Police also reaching the residence of Ranjan and taking him into custody for questioning in a related case registered in Noida against two colleagues by the channel. Ranjan had anchored the show when the clip was aired on July 1.
Later, the Noida police charged Ranjan under IPC section 505 (2) (statement conducive to public mischief and enmity) and arrested him. “After questioning, on the basis of evidence, he was arrested but granted bail since the section is bailable,” said a Noida police spokesperson.
Tuesday’s incident triggered a political storm with the Congress accusing UP Police of having “deliberately interfered” with an “ongoing investigation to shield an accused”. “They have deployed state machinery, without cause or explanation, to hide an individual accused of serious offences from a legitimate investigation,” Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said.
Hitting back, the BJP described the Chhattisgarh police’s move as “absolute misuse and overreach” of power sanctioned by the Congress for “revenge”. “As per news reports all the procedures were not followed by the cops. Was Rohit issued summons? Is direct arrest needed in such cases? Has SC not clarified this already? This is becoming a pattern and design… nothing can justify this,” BJP spokesperson Shehzad Poonawala tweeted.
Officials said Chhattisgarh Police reached the Indirapuram home of Ranjan around 5.30 am with an arrest warrant. At 6.15 am, Ranjan tweeted: “Chhattisgarh Police are standing outside my house to arrest me…without informing the local police. Is this legal?” He tagged UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and senior police officers.
In response, the Raipur police tweeted: “There is no such rule to inform. Still, now they are informed. Police team has shown you the court’s warrant of arrest. You should in fact cooperate, join in the investigation and put your defence in court.”
Around 7.30 am, the Ghaziabad police received a call on their 112 helpline from Ranjan’s neighbours. “They complained that 15-20 men had snatched the phone of the security guard and made him sit in a corner. These men then tried entering Ranjan’s house. We sent a team which found that the men were from Chhattisgarh Police. They were not wearing uniforms and did not have name tags,” Abhay Kumar Mishra, Circle Officer (Indirapuram), said.
SSP (Raipur) Prashant Agarwal told reporters that the team from Chhattisgarh “followed procedure and had a warrant”. “While the policemen were trying to make the arrest, the local police forcefully barged in and took the accused with them. They obstructed our men,” he said.
Videos from Ranjan’s house showed UP Police arguing with their Chhattisgarh counterparts, blaming them for “not following due procedure”.
Later, the Noida police arrived at Ranjan’s house and asked him to join the probe in the case registered against his colleagues. According to officials, the case was based on a complaint filed by Zee Media Corporation on Sunday against a senior producer and a trainee producer.
Zee’s complaint stated: “On 01.07.2022, they (the two producers) received a video feed from Asian News International (ANI) containing the press statement of Congress leader Mr Rahul Gandhi where Mr Gandhi condemned the recent attack on his (Lok Sabha) constituency office in Wayanad, Kerala by SFI workers. However, due to oversight and inadvertence, the aforesaid statement of Mr Rahul Gandhi was presented out of context in our show…which led to widespread protest against the company from various leaders and workers of the Congress party.”
The complaint stated that “the company has reasonable belief and suspicion that the aforesaid negligence and dereliction of duties may have been committed by (the producers) knowingly and intentionally in connivance with each other”. According to the complaint, the two have been dismissed from the company.
A police officer said a case was filed under IPC section 505(2) against the two producers. “I have not received any call from any police station regarding this matter. It is totally false,” Bikash Jha, one of the accused, said.
The Chhattisgarh Police’s FIR against Ranjan was based on a complaint by Congress MLA from Bhilai, Devendra Yadav. It alleged that the channel “edited the clip and ran a false story” to “spread terrorism and break the nation’s unity”.
Ranjan was booked under various IPC sections, including 153 A (promoting enmity between groups), 295 A (outraging religious feelings), 120 B (criminal conspiracy) and 467 (forgery).
Congress general secretary Ramesh said what UP Police had done on Tuesday was “an act of wilful contempt of the court’s warrant” and “their political masters”. “The BJP has perfected the art of shielding the guilty by obstructing even legitimate statutory police investigation while hounding the innocent through the misuse of agencies,” he said.
On July 3, when the FIR against Ranjan was filed in Raipur, Congress leader Pawan Khera had addressed a press conference in Delhi on the video clip, which was shared by some BJP leaders, including former I&B Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore.
“We will not keep quiet. From today onwards, anyone — and the BJP should hear it carefully — who speaks a word against our party…distorts facts against our party, our leader and our legacy…they will remember it for generations to come,” Khera had said.
On July 2, Ramesh had written to BJP president J P Nadda, saying he was “appalled to note that several of your party colleagues have been deliberately and enthusiastically sharing mischievous reportage that occurred on Zee News…”
On Monday, Khera had said that the Congress had filed complaints against BJP leaders Rathore, Lok Sabha MPs Subrat Pathak and Bhola Singh, and UP MLA Kamlesh Saini, in seven states — Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Chhattisgarh — over the video.