A day after a reporter from Marathi news channel ABP Majha was arrested by the Mumbai police for having allegedly “played a part in the rumour mongering” that led to nearly 2,000 migrant workers gathering in Bandra on Tuesday, a local court on Thursday granted him bail, refusing to grant his custody to the police. The court directed the reporter to observe ‘utmost precaution while making news report’ and to place himself in quarantine for two weeks as conditions for bail.
Rahul Kulkarni, the 43-year-old Osmanabad-based reporter, was summoned to Mumbai on Wednesday and arrested for allegedly citing an internal railways document to report that special trains would transport stranded migrant workers back home.
The metropolitan magistrate in Bandra, before whom Kulkarni was produced in the afternoon, said that since prisons are already overcrowded, in view of the outbreak of COVID-19, it will not be proper to keep the accused behind bars.
“It has to be taken into account that the accused (Kulkarni) has undergone transportation to and from high risk zones of COVID-19. It is necessary to direct him to place himself under quarantine,” the court said. It directed that Kulkarni be released on a personal bond of Rs 15,000 and for compliance of bail procedures within a week of the end of lockdown.
“The accused should not indulge in any controversy as the present one and should observe utmost precaution while making news report….should follow the directions given by the governments well as administrative authorities regarding maintenance of peace, order and public health with respect to prevailing COVID-19 pandemic,” the court order said. It also directed authorities to make necessary arrangements for permission to let the accused travel to his place of residence in Osmanabad.
Earlier, the Bandra police sought Kulkarni’s custody and claimed the news report was aired at 11.23 am on Tuesday, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced at 10 am that the lockdown was extended till May 3.
Kulkarni’s lawyers, Subodh Desai and Bharat Magnani, submitted before the court that there was no co-relation of the Bandra incident with the news report. They further claimed the report did not mention any specific timing or location of the trains and that the railways announcement of cancellation of all trains till May 3 was being flashed on TV after the PM’s address at 10 am.
The Bandra police also produced 10 others, arrested in another FIR filed into the Bandra incident against 800-1,000 unknown persons. The police told the court these accused had ‘instigated’ the workers and were arrested from the spot. Their lawyers claimed they were locals, residing in areas including Santacruz, and therefore were not part of the gathering where workers had assembled. The court sent them to police custody till April 19.
(With inputs from Mohamed Thaver)
Reporter goes on air after release
After his release on bail, journalist Rahul Kulkarni appeared on ABP Majha and said he was completely shocked to find the police at his house. “I was completely shocked to find the police at my doorstep at 6 in the morning in Osmanabad… I have been in this field for 20 years and raising issues of public importance all my life…” Kulkarni said the channel stood by his report. “There is nothing wrong in the report. That is why our channel has not taken it off Facebook or Twitter.” (Express News Service)
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