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An FIR for misrepresentation had been lodged over an article by Scroll.in on the conditions of people in PM Modi’s constituency amid the COVID-19 lockdown.
The Allahabad High Court on Tuesday granted protection from arrest to Supriya Sharma, Executive Editor and Naresh Fernandes, Editor of Scroll.in, in connection with an FIR lodged for misrepresentation in a news report (Supriya Sharma and Anr. v. State of UP).
Scroll.in had published a report titled In Varanasi village adopted by Prime Minister Modi, people went hungry during the lockdown, on the conditions in the Prime Minister’s constituency amid the COVID-19 lockdown. The story reported by Sharma included a domestic worker’s recital of extreme hardship during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Later, the woman filed an FIR accusing the Scroll.in team of misrepresenting her statements.
Before the High Court, Sharma had averred that they had retained an audio recording of the interview, which they were willing to hand over to the investigating authorities.
In light of this, a Division Bench of Justices Manoj Misra and Anil Kumar directed the continuance of the investigation, allowing Sharma protection from arrest until the chargesheet was tabled.
It was ruled:
The prayer for quashing of the FIR was, however, rejected, since it disclosed a cognisable offence. The order reads,
"Be that as it may, all the aforesaid aspects need to be ascertained on the basis of material collected during the course of investigation and therefore, at this stage, it would not be appropriate for us to express any opinion as regards the merits of the allegations. Under the circumstances, as the allegations disclose commission of cognizable offence, the prayer of the petitioners to quash the first information report cannot be accepted."
In the FIR filed on June 13, Sharma was booked for offences under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, as well as Sections 501 (printing defamatory matter) and 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) of the Indian Penal Code.
The woman who filed the FIR alleges that she was not a domestic worker, but a sanitation worker with the municipality who was not in financial distress or hungry during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Read the Order here: