The Rajkot city police booked four journalists of Divya Bhaskar, a Gujarati newspaper of the Dainik Bhaskar Group, on Friday, days after they conducted a ‘sting operation’ at the Rajkot Taluka police station and published a report claiming three persons arrested in connection with the fire at a private hospital in the city were given “VIP facilities” by the police.
Based on a complaint filed by Head Constable Jignesh Gadhvi, the police have filed an FIR against Mahendrasinh Jadeja, Pradeepsinh Gohil, Prakash Ravrani and Imran Hothi of the Divya Bhaskar in Rajkot. The FIR states the journalists tried “to defame police force and compromise investigation in the case”.
Divya Bhaskar state editor, Devendra Bhatnagar, however, said the journalists were following the “dharma of journalism”. “If the government or the police is shielding those accused, and are facilitating them and we expose them, we are following merely the dharma of journalism. The FIR nowhere says that the news report we published is incorrect. What they have stated in the FIR is that the journalists obstructed their work, their secret work. Since when did the police station became a secret place? Our legal team is looking into this and we will reply in a legal manner,” Bhatnagar told The Sunday Express. Jadeja is the crime report for the newspaper while Gohil is its city reporting head. Ravrani is a photographer and Hothi does investigative projects for the vernacular daily.
They have been booked under IPC Sections 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 114 (abettor present when offence is committed), and Information Technology Act sections 72A (punishment for disclosure of information in breach of lawful contract), 84B (abetment of offence), 84C (attempt to commit offence) among others.
In his complaint, Gadhvi said on December 1 the journalists came to the police station around 5 am. They identified themselves as journalists of Divya Bhaskar and sought information about the people kept in the lockup and started shooting videos and clicking photographs of the lockup and police station, Gadhvi said.
“When told that they would not be allowed to do photography and videography inside the police station, as there were accused and arms there, they (journalists) said they were doing their work and asked us to do our job,” the complaint stated.
The journalists, the complaint stated, entered the room of the detection staff on the first floor of the police station building without permission and asked two constables what they were doing, where the accused were and what statements had been recorded. This, the complainant stated, prevented the policemen from discharging their official duty.
According to the complainant, J V Dhola, police inspector of Rajkot Taluka police, also asked the journalists to not take photographs and videos, but they continued to do so.
The complainant also said the three accused, arrested in connection with fire incident, were kept in the lockup of the Taluka police station at 1 am and that an entry to this effect was made in the lockup register of the police station. However, as instructed by Police Inspector JV Dhola, the three accused were taken to the interrogation room at 5 am.
On December 2, the FIR notes, Divya Bhaskar published a report claiming Dr Prakash Modha and two other doctors were given “VIP treatment” in the police station and instead of keeping them in the lockup, they were allowed to sleep in the room of the detection staff. The newspaper published photographs of the lockup of the police station, its office room and the accused while they were being interrogated, the FIR said.
Police had arrested Dr Modha, his son Vishal and Dr Tejas Karamta on December 1 after they were booked in connection with a fire at the Uday Shivanand Covid-19 Hospital which killed five Covid-19 patients.
Rajkot city police commissioner Manoj Agarwal said the journalists entered sections of the police station building whose information is not shared even under the Right to Information Act. “It is okay if you conduct a sting operation where the PSO (police station officer) sits. But they went inside the investigation room and in the room of our surveillance squad and did a sting there. It is the investigating area, details about which cannot be disclosed under the RTI Act Section 8G,” Agrawal said.