SC grants protection from arrest to news anchor in FIRs over doctored video of Rahul Gandhi

The Supreme Court on Friday granted protection from arrest to news anchor Rohit Ranjan on his plea seeking quashing of multiple FIRs or clubbing them in a single case, in connection with a doctored video of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.

A vacation bench comprising Justices Indira Banerjee and J.K. Maheshwari issued notice to the Central government, the office of the Attorney General, and others on the petition by Ranjan.

Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, representing Ranjan, sought protection from coercive action against his client. After hearing arguments, the bench directed the authorities not to arrest or take any coercive action against Ranjan. Luthra was assisted by advocates Ruby Singh Ahuja, Samarjit Pattnaik, and a team of advocates from Karanjawala & Co.

The plea filed under Article 32 of the Constitution sought quashing of FIRs in connection with the telecast, and in the alternative, clubbing of the multiple FIRs filed with the first FIR and also urged the court to provide protection against coercive measures. The plea said that multiple FIRs arising out of the same cause of action were not permissible under law. Furthermore, the issue was covered under the provisions of Section 16 and 17 of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 and Programming Rules against the broadcaster.

It further added that when there is special law dealing with the issues in question, there was no question to invoke the criminal statute or registration of FIRs. The plea said the petitioner is being hounded by police from several states for an act which was neither intentional nor motivated and for which an unconditional apology has already been tendered and telecast.

On July 6, Luthra mentioned Ranjan’s plea before a vacation bench and urged the court to urgently hear the matter.

Luthra contended that his client made an error during a show and he later apologised for it. However, multiple FIRs have been registered against him in connection with the show. Luthra submitted before the bench that the Chhattisgarh Police is trying to arrest him and he was arrested by the Noida Police and later released on bail.

Ranjan, was seen anchoring with a ‘doctored’ video clip of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, in which the latter was heard calling the Udaipur attackers as ‘children’, justifying the heinous killing of tailor Kanhaiya Lal last week. However, the original video had Rahul Gandhi’s comments on the SFI attack at his Wayanad office, which was “deliberately and mischievously” doctored to make it appear as if it was a comment on the heinous murder of Kanhaiya Lal in Udaipur.

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