The Karnataka high court has directed the police not to take precipitative action against Aaj Tak news channel's consulting editor Sudhir Chaudhary in an FIR filed against him, but said that there was a prima facie case against him, and it should be investigated.
The court also said that it would dispose of the petition filed by Chaudhary challenging the FIR and that there was no need for custodial interrogation till then.
The interim order sought by Chaudhary for stay was not granted as the HC ordered the petition to be posted for hearing on September 20.
Chaudhary had challenged the FIR lodged at the Seshadripuram police station in Bengaluru after a complaint by Shivakumar S, the assistant administrative officer of the Karnataka Minorities Development Corporation Limited.
The single judge bench of Justice Hemant Chandangoudar who heard the petition observed during the hearing that there was a prima facie case for investigation.
”The specific allegation was that the government is providing a scheme only to minorities and depriving Hindus. There is a prima facie case for investigation,” the HC said.
Senior counsel Uday Holla argued the case for Chaudhary.
The HC said that the scheme established for minorities by the Minority Development Corporation can be criticised by any person including the media but the case against Chaudhary – “whether the allegations that news item telecasted by petitioner satisfies essentials of Section 153A IPC (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) -- needs to be examined.”
However, in a relief for Chaudhary, the HC has said there won't be any custodial interrogation or arrests. ”Till Tuesday (Sep 19) don't take any precipitative action. I am going to hear the matter. This matter is to be disposed of. I cannot keep it pending. I need time to hear the matter till Tuesday,” the court said, adjourning the hearing.
Holla argued that the scheme was only for minorities. The HC however pointed out that it was not what was telecast on the news channel. ”The average man may develop hatred towards minorities saying they have been given and not me,” observed the HC, which also pointed out the claim in the news report that said ”84 per cent (of beneficiaries) come from a specific minority community.”
Chaudhary has been booked under Section 153A (promoting enmity on grounds of religion) and other sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The complaint had alleged that Chaudhary had conspired to disrupt communal harmony by spreading misinformation on his channel about the Karnataka government's 'Swavalambi Sarathi Scheme'. The scheme provides 50 per cent subsidy on bank loans obtained by religious minorities for purchase of commercial transport vehicles up to Rs three lakh.
It was alleged that Chaudhary in a news programme on Aaj Tak channel spread misinformation about the government practising minority appeasement.