New Delhi: The Supreme Court restrained Friday various state authorities from taking coercive steps against TV news anchor Rohit Ranjan. He is facing multiple FIRs for playing a doctored clip of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi during a programme 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 Rohit 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.
Rohit had later apologised and the news programme was withdrawn.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 Rohit Ranjan, told the bench that as of now, three FIRs has 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.
“Today, my difficulty is, the first FIR is in Jaipur, the second FIR is at Raipur in Chhattisgarh,” Luthra said. He added an FIR is also there in Noida.
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.
Rohit has also sought a direction that no coercive action be taken against him for the withdrawn programme for which he and the channel have apologised.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.
“The present writ petition is being filed under Article 32 of the Constitution praying for the quashing /clubbing of almost identical criminal complaints. FIRs were filed across the country against the petitioner. The petitioner prays for the stay of coercive action during the pendency of the present petition,” the plea said.
It said Rohit ‘anchored /hosted a programme on Zee News 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 An unconditional apology was tendered by the petitioner and Zee News and the news show was withdrawn even prior to the registration or filing of any FIR and complaint’.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 have been filed against petitioner Rohit under various provisions of law for the same incident.
Referring to various judgements, the plea 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’.
A police team Tuesday 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 said that a case was registered Sunday against Rohit and others at Zee News for allegedly promoting enmity between different groups and outraging religious feelings of people based on a complaint by Congress MLA Devendra Yadav.
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).