CLOSE TO THREE months after the Mumbai Police booked ABP Majha journalist Rahul Kulkarni (43) for allegedly spreading misinformation about a train for migrants leaving Bandra station, the case was closed citing “mistake in facts”.
The FIR was filed against the journalist after a large crowd of migrants, stranded in the city due to a countrywide lockdown, gathered outside Bandra railway station on April 14 under the impression that a train was leaving for their hometowns in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Police arrested Kulkarni alleging that it was his news report on the government considering resumption of trains for migrants that led to the confusion.
In their closure report filed before the Bandra court on July 21, police said Kulkarni’s report was not incorrect but “misunderstood by people watching it”.
According to the closure report, when Kulkarni was in police custody for a day, he told police that his news report was based on internal communication on the railways’ plans to start a train for migrants.
The closure report noted that nowhere in his report did Kulkarni mention Bandra station. “His news report did not mention the names of the railway stations that would be covered by trains for migrants,” the closure report stated.
The closure report also stated that the message, ‘Bandra railway station jaana hain jaldi chalo, news channel par bhi sarkar ne gaon bhejne ke liye train chalu kar di hai (We have to get to Bandra station quickly, television channels are also reporting that the government has started trains to send people back to their villages)’, that did the rounds among migrants was not on the basis of Kulkarni’s report.
The closure report further observed that had people believed that a long-distance train was about to leave for their hometowns, they would have gathered outside Bandra Terminus and not the suburban line station.
The report concluded by stating that there was nothing to show that Kukarni put out an erroneous report but “it was rather misunderstood by people” gathered there.
Following this, police recommended that the case should be closed and classified as ‘C Summary’ that stands for “mistake in fact leading to a case being registered”.
Apart from this FIR, police had registered two more FIRs – one against Navi Mumbai resident Vinay Dubey, who allegedly uploaded a video on social media asking migrants to gather outside Bandra railway station, and the other against migrants who allegedly spread the rumour. In the closure report, police alleged that Dubey, arrested in the case, is responsible for the rumour mongering. Repeated calls and messages to Bandra Senior Inspector Nikhil Kapse and Deputy Commissioner of Police Abhishek Trimukhe on the status of the two FIRs went unanswered.
Talking to The Indian Express, Kulkarni said, “The court accepted the police report and I am relieved. In the aftermath of the case, I did approach National Human Rights Commission and Press Council Of India. My parents too approached senior officers and gave a written complaint against high-handed behaviour displayed by police.”
He added, “It is a dangerous trend where the government is trying to muzzle the freedom of expression that it should ideally be protecting.”
Rajiv Khandekar, editor of ABP Majha, said, “Satyamev Jayate, the truth has triumphed.”
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