Congress leader Shashi Tharoor and journalist Rajdeep Sardesai have moved the Supreme Court against the multiple first information reports filed against them for allegedly sharing unverified news about the death of a protestor during the farmers’ tractor rally on January 26, Live Law reported on Wednesday.
National Herald’s senior consulting editor Mrinal Pande, Qaumi Awaz editor Zafar Agha, The Caravan magazine’s editor and founder Paresh Nath, The Caravan editor Anant Nath have also approached the court against the FIRs.
On January 30, the Delhi Police became the fifth one to file a case against Tharoor and six journalists. However, unlike the other states, the first information report filed by the Delhi Police does not include charges of sedition. The police had also named The Caravan executive editor Vinod K Jose.
The FIR was lodged on a complaint by advocate Chiranjiv Kumar, a central government lawyer at the Delhi High Court. Kumar’s complaint said that the accused spread fake news about a farmer’s death in Delhi on January 26 by blaming the Delhi Police.
The police had said that tweets by the accused were retweeted by others that can “cause mutiny among the ranks of ignorant people, causing panic and violent rebellion, thereby inducing citizens to commit offences against the State or against the public tranquility”.
The Uttar Pradesh Police was the first to file an FIR against the seven in Noida that includes charges of sedition, followed by a similar case filed by the police in Madhya Pradesh. Last week, the state police had also filed a FIR against The Wire’s Founding Editor Siddharth Varadarajan for tweeting an article published on the news website reporting that the farmer who was killed during a tractor rally on Republic Day had died in police firing.
Other FIRs were registered in Gurugram and Bengaluru on January 29, and in Noida on January 28.
The FIRs claim that the accused, in a coordinated and well-timed conspiracy, started a misinformation campaign that it was the Delhi Police that shot a protesting farmer. Most of them invoke sections of the Indian Penal Code on sedition, criminal intimidation, promoting enmity, provocation to break public peace, criminal conspiracy, outraging religious feelings, among others.
The FIRs were registered despite criticism from several media bodies. The Editors Guild of India described the action as a concerted attempt to “stifle and harass” media. On Saturday, journalists also assembled at the Press Club of India in Delhi to protest against the FIRs. The meeting was organised by a number of media bodies, including the Editors Guild of India, Indian Women’s Press Corps, Delhi Union of Journalists, and Indian Journalists Union.