The Supreme Court agreed to hear on Thursday the plea of a TV news anchor Rohit Ranjan, facing several FIRs in some states for playing a doctored clip of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, seeking protection from coercive action for the alleged offence.
“List it tomorrow,” a vacation bench of justices Indira Banerjee and J K Maheswari said on Wednesday when senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, appearing for the TV anchor, sought an urgent hearing of the plea in view of the registration of several FIRs against him in many states for telecast of the clip.
“This man was arrested yesterday by UP police at Noida and released on bail as the offence invoked was bailable,“ Luthra said, adding that the anchor made an error in one of the shows and apologised for that and the news was taken back.
“Now Chhattisgarh police want to arrest him. Please list this urgently since otherwise, he will be in repeated custody,” the senior lawyer said.
After the bench agreed to list the petition for urgent hearing on Thursday the advocate-on-record in the case told the bench that the plea was yet to be filed in the apex court’s registry.
"We should have been told that the matter has not been filed. This is no ground. This court is going to take a very strong view. As the AOR you should have instructed your senior counsel," the irked bench observed.
The senior advocate regretted the confusion.
On Tuesday, a police team from Chhattisgarh 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 on Tuesday night.
"Zee News anchor Rohit Ranjan was picked up from his home for questioning on Tuesday morning by a team from Noida Sector-20 police station in connection with an FIR lodged under IPC 505 (public mischief) on a complaint by his channel over a doctored video played during his show on July 1, a Noida police seeking anonymity said.
In Raipur, Senior Superintendent of Police Prashant Agrawal said a case was registered against Ranjan and others at Zee News on Sunday for allegedly promoting enmity between different groups and outraging religious feelings of people based on a complaint by Congress MLA Devendra Yadav.
In his complaint, Yadav said a video, in which Rahul Gandhi described those attacking his Wayanad office as children and said he had no ill-will against them, was "mischievously" used by the TV channel on July 1 to suggest he was forgiving the killers of Udaipur tailor Kanhaiya Lal.
The FIR in Raipur was lodged under IPC 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).
On July 2, a day after the video was aired, Ranjan apologised for mistakenly playing Gandhi's statement out of context by linking it with the Udaipur murder case.
"It was a human error for which our team is apologetic. We apologise for it," he had tweeted in Hindi.
(With PTI inputs)