The Uttar Pradesh police lathi-charged media-persons seeking to question jailed mafia don Babloo Srivastava, while he was brought to a local court for appearance.
With nearly three dozen criminal cases pending against him in different courts , Babloo was nabbed by Interpol in Singapore, 12 years ago and has since been facing trial.
Since bulk of the cases were pending before courts in Lucknow, he is often brought there for the hearings , which invariably attract much media attention.
While scribes were never prevented from covering the criminal in the past , the sudden action of the local police to physically prevent them from doing so came as a shock to all.
Protesting journalists boycotted the budget briefing by Finance Minister Lalji Verma , even as cabinet secretary Shashank Shekhar Singh tendered an "unconditional apology" on behalf of the government. Principal secretary (Information) Vijai Shanker Pandey also tried to pacify the scribes.
The media-persons also protested the use of unparliamentary language by Lucknow superintendent of police (East), Paresh Pandey.
The situation was aggravated by an unrelated incident in which a reporter of a TV channel was manhandled and slapped by a police sub-inspector while he was trying to interview youngsters at the Lucknow University for Valentine's Day .
Angry scribes held a meeting at the state media centre where a unanimous demand was raised for immediate suspension of the two cops .
After prolonged dialogue, the government agreed to institute a magisterial inquiry into the incident, but expressed reluctance to initiate any further action against them.
Meanwhile, defending the police, a senior government official pleaded, "The SP was right in preventing journalists from interviewing a jailed criminal in police custody, if he had failed to so he would have faced action." He however hastened to add, "but that does not mean that I am justifying the use of force against the scribes.