PCI chairman slams detention of Iftikhar Gilani

Slamming the Delhi Police’s detention of senior journalist Iftikhar Gilani hours after Afzal Guru’s execution on Saturday, Press Council of India chairman Markandey Katju has demanded that the officers responsible be suspended and charge-sheeted.

Mr. Gilani, who works as an assistant editor for English news daily DNA, is also the son-in-law of Kashmiri separatist leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani. On Saturday morning, he and his wife were detained for five hours by officers from the Special Cell of the Delhi Police, who also locked his two school-going children into the bedroom of their flat.

In a strong letter to Home Secretary R.K. Singh, Justice Katju termed the behaviour of the Delhi Police as “high-handed” and “outrageous,” comparing it to the methods of the Gestapo in Nazi Germany. “If these allegations are correct, the concerned police officers, who committed these high-handed illegal acts, as well as those higher-ups who were instrumental in ordering these shameful and odious acts are prima facie guilty of serious crimes under Sections 341/342, as well as other provisions of the Indian Penal Code and are also guilty of gross and blatant abuse of their powers,” said the letter, written after Mr. Gilani sent a complaint to the PCI.

Justice Katju has given the government 48 hours to take action if Mr. Gilani’s allegations are proved. He demanded that the police officers responsible —including those who issued the detention orders — be immediately charge-sheeted and placed under suspension, and criminal proceedings be instituted. Citing the example of the Nuremberg trials, he warned that policemen could not hide behind the excuse that they were only following illegal orders.

The PCI chief also demanded that an apology and compensation be given to Mr. Gilani and his family. He added that the alleged ongoing harassment and surveillance of Mr. Gilani — who had also been arrested on false charges in 2002 — violates previous Supreme Court orders and also infringes upon the constitutional right to privacy.

Fellow journalists have also come out in strong support of Mr. Gilani. The Press Association pointed out that the DNA scribe is accredited as a journalist by the Government of India itself. “This kind of rude treatment meted out to Iftikhar Gilani and his family members by the police is totally uncalled for and has no place in a democratic country like ours which boasts of being governed by the rule of law,” said a statement issued on Saturday.

The Delhi Union of Journalists also called for immediate action against the police officials involved and said it would organise a protest meeting against their “unwarranted and blatantly illegal action.”

The Editors Guild of India asked for a police apology to Mr. Gilani and his family and an “assurance that he will not be harassed in the future or prevented from carrying out his journalistic duties again.” The Guild also expressed concern at restrictions imposed on newspapers in Srinagar over the past two days, and asked the government of Jammu and Kashmir to allow the press to exercise its constitutional right to freedom of expression. Newspapers in the Valley have reportedly been asked not to print or circulate their editions, and have also been prevented from uploading their online editions.

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