Kashmir Walla moves High Court against Army complaint, FIR on Shopian story

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Srinagar: The Kashmir Walla has approached the Jammu and Kashmir High Court seeking a stay on the proceedings and quashing of the FIR filed by the Shopian police based on a complaint by the army for a news report. 

On 30 January, 44 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) of the army approached the police station Imam Sahib in Shopian demanding action against The Kashmir Walla for publishing a report on 27 January that quoted a local school’s chairperson alleging that the institution was forced to hold a Republic Day event by the army.

The police filed an FIR (no. 6/2021) under sections 153 and 505 Indian Penal Code — carrying imprisonment for three years. The army in its complaint quoted a press release of Siraj Ul Uloom’s chairperson Mohammad Yusuf Mantoo, that was making rounds on social media.

Justice Rajnesh Oswal, who heard the petitioners, has issued notice to police and army to submit a report within or by the next hearing on 2 April.

In the petition, filed by The Kashmir Walla’s Editor in Chief, Fahad Shah, and Assistant Editor Yashraj Sharma through their legal counsel on 3 March, have called the FIR “clearly unconstitutional and against the law.” 

“The petitioners were just carrying on their legal duties and reported a news item for which the petitioners fulfilled all the professional responsibilities as they were required to do and took utmost precautions for producing the correct version,” reads the petition.

The petition further read: “The complainant who has filed an application has neither read the news properly nor verified the contents from the sources. The SHO concerned instead of starting an investigation of the matter should go through the news item and establish what is there in the news item that will invoke the rigor of the provisions mentioned above. The news item is a piece of news based on facts collected by the newspaper and does not invoke the iron hand of the state to silent the dissenting voices.”

The Kashmir Walla stands by its reporting and will produce related evidence if and when required in a court of law,” Shah said. “We have followed the procedure and approached first the sessions court and now the High Court.”

The newspaper had earlier approached the sessions court in Shopian for interim relief in the case under section 438 Cr. P.C (for grant of Anticipatory Bail in the FIR). However, the session court rejected the application for bail in anticipation of arrest “on vague and uncorroborated grounds as raised by police.”

The police FIR has also named a reporter of The Kashmiriyat, who had also published a story on the same matter on the same day.

Committee to Protect Journalists, an international press freedom watchdog, has called on the authorities to drop their investigations into the work of reporters “and allow them to report without interference”.

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