The Uttar Pradesh Police have registered a First Information Report against Scroll.in’s executive editor Supriya Sharma for a report on the effects of the country’s lockdown to combat the coronavirus in the prime minister’s constituency. The case includes, among others, sections related to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
According to a First Information Report lodged on June 13 in Varanasi’s Rampur police station, the police have also charged Sharma under Sections 501 and 269 of the Indian Penal Code. While the former deals with printing “defamatory matter”, the latter pertains to “negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life”.
The police have also named Scroll.in’s “editor-in-chief” in the FIR.
The police, the FIR states, acted on a complaint filed by Mala Devi, a resident of Varanasi’s Domari village. Sharma had interviewed Mala as part of a series from Varanasi district on the impact of the lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Domari village has been adopted by the prime minister under the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana. In the interview, Mala told Scroll.in she was a domestic worker and experienced food distress during the lockdown since she did not have a ration card.
However, according to the FIR, Mala Devi in her complaint to the police alleged Sharma misrepresented her comments and identity. She claimed she was not a domestic worker, but worked as a sanitation worker at the Varanasi city municipality through “outsourcing”.
“During the lockdown, neither me or anyone in my family faced any problems,” the FIR quotes her. “By saying that me and children went hungry, Supriya Sharma had made fun of my poverty and caste.”
“Scroll.in interviewed Mala in Domari village, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, on June 5, 2020. Her statements have accurately been reported in the article titled, ‘In Varanasi village adopted by Prime Minister Modi, people went hungry during the lockdown.’
Scroll.in stands by the article, which has been reported from the Prime Minister’s constituency. This FIR is an attempt to intimidate and silence independent journalism, reporting on conditions of vulnerable groups during the Covid-19 lockdown.”