Police in Uttar Pradesh’s Rampur district has registered a first information report (FIR) against The Wire‘s founding editor Siddharth Varadarajan for tweeting a story on the claims made by the family of the farmer who was killed during the Republic Day tractor rally.
According to a report, the case invokes Sections 153-B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration) and 505(2) (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The story, published by The Wire on Friday, reports the allegations made by Navreet Singh’s family. The farmer’s grandfather alleged that a doctor had informed the family at the time of the autopsy that Singh died due to a bullet wound, not when his tractor overturned. The post-mortem report, however, makes no such observation and concludes his death was due to an ante-mortem injury to the head.
The Wire’s report had also included statements by the police and doctors rejecting the family’s claims
Avinash Chandra, was also quoted in the report denying the family’s claims. He said, “We had made a panel of senior doctors for the autopsy. We have no reason to suppress or distort such a document because the matter is of Delhi Police.”
“While it is impossible for journalists or lay persons to reach any firm conclusion, the family is hoping an independent probe will establish the truth,” the report had concluded.
On Saturday evening, the Rampur district magistrate responded to Varadarajan’s tweet saying, “We ardently request you to please let’s be sticking to facts and facts only (sic),” he wrote.
Police forces in various BJP-ruled states have registered cases against journalists who have reported on the farmers’ rally, in what journalist bodies describe as a concerted attack on the freedom of media.
Varadarajan said the FIR reeks of “malicious prosecution”. “In UP, it is a crime for media to report statements of relatives of a dead person if they question a postmortem or police version of cause of death,” he added.