Allahabad HC Quashes FIR Against Siddharth Varadarajan Over Article Saying Farmer Who Died After Tractor Overturned During Farmers' Protest Was Shot
The Allahabad High Court has quashed the FIR registered by UP Police against the founding editor of the digital news portal 'The Wire', Siddharth Varadarajan and its reporter Ismat Ara.
The FIR was registered under Sections 153-B and 505 (2) of the IPC over the article titled "Autopsy Doctor Told Me He'd Seen the Bullet Injury but Can Do Nothing as His Hands are Tied", after the death of Navreet Singh during the protest by farmers against the Farm Laws in Delhi during the Republic Day in 2021, after his tractor overturned.
A clarificatory statement was issued by the three doctors who carried out the postmortem denying that they had spoken to the media or any other person or they made any such statement.
The UP Police had claimed that the death was due to the accident involving the overturning of the tractor, while some had claimed that he was shot. The news authored by Ismat Ara was tweeted by Siddharth Varadarajan. The FIR was registered on the basis of a complaint that the tweet was intended to provocate the masses, spread riot, tarnish the image of medical officers by proving wrong to the panel of Medical Officers and disturb law and order and that the doctors who performed the postmortem denied that they have told the victim's family that the cause of the death was bullet injuries.
The Petitioners had approached the Supreme Court first, which permitted them to withdraw the Petition and approach the Allahabad High Court, while granting interim protection from coercive action.
The Additional Advocate General opposed the Petition for quashing of the offence stating that the FIR has rightly been lodged in accordance with law as despite the contradictions of the doctors in regard to the statement published by the petitioners, the news item was not deleted.
After referring to the Judgments of the Supreme Court, the Bench of Justice Ashwani Kumar Mishra and Justice Rajnish Kumar held that the ingredients of the offences alleged have not been made out.
"Perusal of the publication made by the petitioners indicate that it mentions the fact of incident, thereafter the statement of the family members regarding incident and alleged information given by the doctors to him, denial of the U.P. Police and the fact as to what happened that day. This publication was made on 30.01.2021 at 10.08 A.M. and on the very same day a clarification of the three doctors was issued by Rampur Police at 04:39 PM, immediately thereafter at 04:46 PM, the same was also published by the petitioners", the Bench noted.
The Court held that "The aforesaid news items does not disclose that any opinion was expressed by the petitioners with consequences thereof, therefore this Court does not find any opinion or assertion on the part of the petitioners which may have the effect of provocating or inciting the people", adding that nothing was also brought before the Court to indicate that there was any disturbance or riot which may have any bearing on public disorder on account of the publication of news/ tweet of the petitioners.
Accordingly, the Court quashed the offence while holding that "the FIR does not disclose the commissioning of offences under Sections 153-B and 505 (2) IPC, therefore, it is not sustainable in the eyes of law and is liable to be quashed".