The Delhi High Court on Monday issued a notice to Aaj Tak, Press Council of India and the Centre on a plea alleging misreporting by the news channel on the farmers’ Republic Day tractor rally, reported Live Law.

The petition has sought restraining fake news by taking accountability measures as well as framing guidelines, laws and bye-laws, including fixing appropriate punishment for the violation of the proposed rules. The plea has been filed by Rajya Sabha MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and Manjit Singh GK, the former president of the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee.

The petitioners alleged that Aaj Tak launched a “potentially fatal communal attack” by circulating unverified video of the tractor rally violence on Republic Day on various platforms, including its news channel and digital media.

 “Vicious, unmitigated, abhorrent, concocted and reprehensible actions by certain media houses [i.e. Aaj Tak], have unleashed an offensive and potentially fatal communal attack on the ‘Sikh’ community by continuous circulation and constant transmission of unverified videos through different platforms including their respective news channels, YouTube, and other such digital and online platforms, pursuant to the events that unfolded New Delhi on the 72nd Republic Day of India on 26.01.2021.”  

— The petition by Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and Manjit Singh GK

The petitioners claimed that farmer leaders have been ensuring that no inconvenience is caused to the public because of their protest. However, they said, “due to the infiltration of the protests by certain anti-social and ill-motivated elements” on January 26, the police launched severe assault on the tractor rally, which gave these anti-social elements a chance to create a ruckus.

“The anti-social and ill-motivated elements utilised the said opportunity to create ruckus amongst the public with the object of delegitimising the protests,” the petition said.

The plea claimed that Aaj Tak’s correspondent Arvind Ojha, in a video, alleged that the protestors were involved in the vilification and destruction of the tableaus of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The petitioners said that the allegations by the news channel were untrue, baseless and a “concoction of phantom imagination”, reported Bar and Bench.

“The tirade launched through the circulation [of] such malicious and vindictive videos are meant to outrage the dignity, modesty and goodwill of the Sikh community and to incite public sentiments against the people belonging the Sikh community,” the plea said, adding that this could result in disastrous consequences for the community.

The case will be next heard on February 26.

Republic Day violence

The farmers’ tractor rally on Republic Day turned chaotic after a section of protestors deviated from the routes agreed to with the Delhi Police. One protestor was killed in the clashes and over 300 police officers were injured. Protestors broke through barricades and poured into the city, clashing with a police force that tried to push them back with tear gas and a baton charge. Some of them stormed the Red Fort.

The Delhi Police said on January 30 that 84 people have been arrested and 38 first information reports filed so far in connection with the violence.

Several farmer leaders, including Swaraj India President Yogendra Yadav and Bharatiya Kisan Union’s Haryana unit President Gurnam Singh Chaduni, were named in one of the FIRs filed by the police.

The police have alleged that farmer leaders made inflammatory speeches, and were involved in the violence during the tractor parade. Farmers have denied the allegations and blamed “antisocial elements” for the chaos.