The Hindu’s Hyderabad Resident Editor has been unfairly slapped with a case, inter alia, under Sections 469 and 505 (1) (a) and (b) of the IPC. The punishment under these Sections is imprisonment up to three years with liability for fine as well.
Section 469 is about forging a document or record with the intent to cause damage or injury to the public or any person. The fact of the visit of the DGP to a religious leader has not been denied but actually affirmed by the police. So the question of creating a forged report does not arise. The police claim that the report’s intent was to cause injury to the public or any person lacks credibility.
Section 505 (1) (a) of the IPC refers to a report that may cause failure of duty of a member of the army, navy or the air force. It is not clear how it is relevant to The Hindu report on the DGP visiting a religious leader. The proof under Section 505 (1) (b) requires intent to cause fear or alarm to the public, inducing people to commit an offence against the state or public tranquillity. It is far-fetched to claim that The Hindu report would cause this. The police FIR describes the DGP’s visit as done in the “public interest, law and order and peace and harmony.” Yet, such an enlightened intention was not clarified to The Hindu by the DGP, who was not available to comment on the issue. Even more relevant, the family members of the religious leader have stated that the DGP’s visit to their house was “personal.” If the provisions of the law under which the FIR has been filed and the contradictions governing the nature of the DGP’s visit are seen together, there is little room to escape the conclusion that this is an effort at interfering with the right to freedom of the press . Citizens should stand shoulder to shoulder with The Hindu at this hour.