In its detailed order granting bail to ABP Majha reporter Rahul Kulkarni, the Bandra metropolitan magistrate’s court has said the news report allegedly citing an internal railways document to report that special trains would transport stranded migrant workers back home, was ‘misleading’ and led to the huge gathering at Bandra station on April 14. The court had on April 16 granted bail to Kulkarni after observing that the reasons given by the investigating officer from Bandra police station for seeking his custody were ‘not at all convincing’.
In the detailed order, which was made available on Sunday, the court has said that the media has tremendous influence on the general public and hence it is necessary that news reports should be made more sensibly and responsibly with anticipation of its consequences.
Nearly 2,000 migrant workers had assembled outside Bandra station on Tuesday. Many said that they had been told that a meeting was to take place at the station regarding transport arrangements to be made for workers wanting to leave for their homes.
“It is sufficient to invoke confidence of any commoner in the said news item that the trains shall be operated. The news appears to have gone viral. It led to huge gathering at Bandra station. Some anti-social elements took opportunity and benefit of the news item to incite and gather people at Bandra station,” the court.
Kulkarni’s lawyers argued that the news item had aired before the announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at 10 am, regarding extending the lockdown till May 3. The court said that the reporter should have waited for the PM address.
“The hurried reporting of the news item shows that the accused acted in irresponsible manner and in a bid to give some breaking news. His behaviour has actually led to the present situation. Not only our country but the entire world is facing an extremely difficult situation due to Covid-19 pandemic. In this background, maximum precaution is required to be taken by the persons like the accused while reporting any news. However, the accused seems to have ignored his responsibility,” the court said. It further said that while the accused had relied on freedom of press, it cannot be said to be ‘unfettered’ and reasonable restrictions are required to be followed.
It said that the action taken by the police holding the accused responsible for the situation seems to be justified. It however denied police Kulkarni’s custody as there was no recovery to be made from him.
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