Rohit Ranjan
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Cases have been filed against Zee News anchor Rohit Ranjan in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan

Rohit Ranjan gets protection from arrest from SC in doctored clip case

The governments of Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan have been restrained by the Supreme Court from taking any coercive action against TV news anchor Rohit Ranjan, who is facing multiple FIRs for playing a doctored clip of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi during a programme on July 1.

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The governments of Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan have been restrained by the Supreme Court from taking any coercive action against TV news anchor Rohit Ranjan, who is facing multiple FIRs for playing a doctored clip of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi during a programme on July 1.

A vacation bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and JK Maheshwari also issued notice to the Centre, through the office of the Attorney General, on Ranjan’s plea seeking quashing of complaints or FIRs relating to the telecast.

The apex court was hearing the plea of the anchor who is facing FIRs in some states.
Ranjan had later apologised and the news programme was withdrawn.

While issuing notice on the plea which has made the Centre, states of Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan as parties, the top court said in the meanwhile, the respondent authorities shall not take coercive steps against the petitioner to take him into custody.

Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, appearing for Ranjan, told the bench that as of now, three FIRs have been registered at Jaipur, Raipur and Noida. He said an unintentional error was committed in the programme and the petitioner had apologised also.

Luthra said two concerned persons of the company had accepted their fault and have resigned.

Also read: Fake Rahul Gandhi video: Zee anchor Ranjan gets protection from arrest

In his petition filed through law firm Karanjawala and Co, the news anchor has sought relief including the quashing of FIRs or complaints or their clubbing and transfer to one place.
Ranjan has also sought a direction that no coercive action be taken against him for the withdrawn programme for which he and the channel have apologised.

The petition has sought security for the journalist, his family members, and his colleagues associated with the programme in question.

It said Ranjan “anchored /hosted a programme on Zee News on July 1, 2022. The news show inadvertently misattributed certain quotes and the error was immediately rectified. An unconditional apology was tendered by the petitioner and Zee News and the news show was withdrawn even prior to the registration or filing of any FIR and complaint”.

However, subsequently, multiple FIRs and complaints were filed against Ranjan under various provisions of law for the same incident.

Referring to various judgements, it said, “There can be no second FIR and consequently there can be no fresh investigation in respect of the same cognizable offence or incident giving rise to one or more cognizable offences.”

“Since it is impossible for the petitioner to approach various courts/police stations all over the country in respect of such FIRs/complaints, the present writ petition is being filed under Article 32 against the violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (a) (freedom of speech and expression) and Article 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Constitution,” it said.

Also read: SC grants 5-day bail to Alt News’ co-founder Mohammed Zubair

Furthermore, the issue was covered under the provisions of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 and the Programming Rules against the broadcaster, it said.

“Therefore, when there is special law dealing with the issues in question, there was no question to invoke the criminal statute or registration of FIRs,” it said.

On Tuesday, a police team from Chhattisgarh had reached Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad town to arrest the anchor from his home but he was instead arrested by the Noida police who released him on bail later.

In Raipur, Senior Superintendent of Police Prashant Agrawal had told PTI that a case was registered against Ranjan and others at Zee News on Sunday for allegedly promoting enmity between different groups and outraging religious feelings of people based on a complaint by Congress MLA Devendra Yadav.

In his complaint, Yadav said the channel has “mischievously” used a video of Rahul Gandhi to wrongly suggest that he was forgiving the killers of Udaipur tailor Kanhaiya Lal.

The FIR in Raipur was lodged under Indian Penal Code sections, including 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class), 467 (forgery), 469 (forgery to harm reputation), 504 (intentional insult).

On July 2, a day after the video was aired, Ranjan apologised for mistakenly playing Gandhi’s statement out of context.

“It was a human error for which our team is apologetic. We apologise for it,” he had tweeted in Hindi.

(With agency inputs)

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