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Journalist held for error in report gets bail, court says ‘nothing to create enmity’

Police said he had committed "a serious offence... against public tranquillity", and the report "has created false alarm in the mind of the general public... thereby promoted enmity between classes".

By: Express News Service | Chandigarh |
September 19, 2021 4:01:24 am
Dainik Bhaskar had put out a correction the next day on the location from where the arrest was made.

A DAY after the Ambala Police arrested a journalist over an error in a report about the arrest of a terror suspect, a court granted him bail, saying “there was nothing… which can create enmity between classes”, as claimed in the FIR.

Police had arrested reporter Sunil Brar and booked News Editor Sandeep Sharma of Dainik Bhaskar newspaper, on the complaint of a sub-inspector, under Sections 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot), 177 (furnishing false information), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace) and 505 (2) (statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes).

Brar was produced in the court of Judicial Magistrate I Class (Ambala) Mukesh Kumar. Police said he had committed “a serious offence… against public tranquillity”, and the report “has created false alarm in the mind of the general public… thereby promoted enmity between classes”.

Arguing against bail, the prosecution said Brar might tamper with evidence, and that “the machines from where the newspaper was printed are in the custody of the accused and his associates” and “the co-accused (Sandeep Sharma) was yet to be arrested”.

The prosecution also sought Brar’s custodial interrogation, but the court refused it, saying “there is no need… for further interrogation”.

Brar’s counsel said police acted under political pressure and falsely implicated him. On the error in the report, which said the terror suspect was held from Ambala Cantt, instead of from a village in Ambala, his counsel said: “Some terrorist was arrested in the territory of Ambala district and, on the basis of his information, he published the news in Danik Bhaskar. The applicant is a permanent resident of district Ambala and is ready to abide by any condition imposed by the Hon’ble Court.”

Dainik Bhaskar had put out a correction the next day on the location from where the arrest was made.

In its order, the court noted that the prosecution had not denied that an arrest had been made from Ambala district by the Punjab Police. “… Admittedly except Section 505 (2) of IPC, all other offences levelled against the accused are bailable in nature… It is the allegation of prosecution that by publishing such false news, the accused created alarm in the mind of the general public and also tried to create enmity between classes. However, after perusal of the remand paper and the copy of the newspaper produced by the Investigating Officer, this court is of the view that there was nothing (of the sort) which can create enmity between classes,” the judge said.

The court, however, rejected the submission by Brar’s counsel that police had violated the norms of arrest, saying “… police can arrest the accused as per procedure, if the arrest of the accused is required for investigation purpose”.

The Congress has attacked the BJP-led Haryana government over the case, also accusing police of bringing Sharma’s elderly father to the police station and keeping him there after not finding Sharma. Police denied any knowledge of this. Sources, however, told The Sunday Express that this had happened, with Sharma’s father only released after senior police and other government officials intervened.

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