A court in Jammu and Kashmir has denied interim relief from arrest to Kashmir Walla Editor-in-Chief Fahad Shah and reporter Yashraj Sharma in a case lodged against them for reporting that a school in Shopian district had been forced by the Army to hold a Republic Day function on January 26.
In an order passed on February 2, an additional sessions judge in Shopian held that there was no “exceptional reason and sufficient ground” to grant the journalists anticipatory bail.
The first information report against the Kashmir Walla journalists was registered on January 31 based on a complaint from the Indian Army, which accused them of spreading fake news. Besides them, the police also named the website, The Kashmiriyat, for publishing the same report.
The FIR was filed in the Imam Sahib area of Shopian under Sections 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code.
In their petition, the journalists submitted that they were being implicated in a “false and frivolous” case. They said that they were entitled to get anticipatory bail under provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
The court, however, rejected the contention and said that both Shah and Sharma could not establish prima facie that they had been falsely implicated in the case, or that they “would not misuse their liberty”.
Citing the Adri Dharan Das Vs. State of West Bengal 2005 judgement, the court noted that the “arrest was a part of process of investigation which enables the unrevealing of the various facts of crime including the motive, preparation and its commission”.
The court said the power to grant bail under section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure has to be “exercised sparingly”.
“The provision of anticipatory bail is very much in the Code of Criminal Procedure, but the power needs to be exercised when the exceptional circumstances demand that such an extraordinary privilege should be granted,” the court added. “In the present case no exceptional ground has been made out.”
The Jamia Siraj ul Uloom held a Republic Day function on January 26. A video clip of the celebration at the school, in which children were seen holding the tricolour while the Indian national anthem played in the background, went viral on social media.
Later, The Kashmir Walla and The Kashmiriyat carried news reports that said the founder and chairperson of the school had told their reporters on record that the Army’s 44 Rashtriya Rifles had been pressuring the school administration to hold a Republic Day function for about a month. School chairperson Muhammad Yusuf Manto also claimed that children who can be seen in the video holding national flags were not students of the school, and were brought by the Army from nearby areas.
However, days before the FIR was filed, on January 30, the school management put out a statement denying begin forced to celebrate and had named both The Kashmir Walla and The Kashmiriyat.