The court of the chief judicial magistrate of Srinagar on Saturday issued a non-bailable warrant against Republic TV editor Arnab Goswami and three other journalists in a case filed by Peoples Democratic Party leader Naeem Akhtar.

Akhtar alleged that the news channel telecast “scandalous” content against him. He had filed a plea seeking punishment for the accused under Section 499 and Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code, which relate to defamation.

The court had on December 27 directed Goswami, the channel’s special Srinagar correspondent Zeenat Zeeshan Fazil, Senior Associate Editor Aditya Raj Kaul and anchor Sakal Bhatt to appear before it, Kashmir News Service reported.

On Saturday, Irshad Ahmad, the counsel for the defendants, told the court that Goswami, Kaul and Bhatt cannot answer the summons because of the situation prevailing in the Kashmir Valley following the Pulwama terror attack. He said Fazil cannot appear before the court due to her personal and professional engagements.

However, the chief judicial magistrate rejected the defendants’ application seeking personal exemption from appearance. He said the accused were required to appear in court and submit surety bonds.

“From the record it appears the accused were performing the duties of journalists,” he said. “During these days all the journalists are in the Valley for capturing day-to-day activities. The reasons as mentioned in the application does not seem to be so clear, as such, the application moved by the counsel for the accused persons for their personal exemptions for today, being devoid of any merits, as such stands rejected.”

Instead, the court directed that a non-bailable warrant be issued against Goswami and the three other accused, and asked concerned senior superintendents of police to produce them in court on March 23.