‘Excessive use of state power’: SC to Jharkhand govt on journalist’s midnight arrest

The Supreme Court on Monday pulled up the Jharkhand government for arresting a journalist from his bedroom in the middle of the night in July this year, saying the action against him was excessive use of state power.

A bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Hima Kohli orally observed that the police went to the house of the journalist at 12 in the night and pulled him out of his bedroom, and this is not the way to treat the media or a journalist. “This is lawlessness in Jharkhand, “it said, adding that this is also excessive use of state power.

The bench told counsel representing the Jharkhand government: “You are not dealing with a terrorist, but a journalist.”

The Jharkhand government counsel submitted that the journalist was facing multiple charges of extortion and cheating.

The top court made these oral observations while hearing an appeal by the Jharkhand government against the high court order granting bail to journalist Arup Chatterjee, who works with News 11 Bharat, on his wife’s petition. He was arrested on the intervening night of 16 and 17 July on charges of extortion. Chatterjee was released two days later.

The Jharkhand counsel contended that the high court did not wait for the police to submit their status report on Chatterjee’s wife’s plea before passing the order. And, the high court got carried away when it said the police didn’t follow the procedure prescribed under Sections 80 and 81 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), added counsel.

The bench told counsel that when there is arbitrary use of power by the state government, judges with a conscience will get carried away. “The state is under obligation to protect citizens,” said the bench, and refused to intervene in the matter as the bail order was an interim one.

Chatterjee’s wife claimed that Dhanbad police arrested her husband from his residence in Ranchi and did not inform the local police, which is mandatory under the CrPC. In the high court, she claimed that her husband was harassed and targeted for broadcasting a story against corruption.

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