A police team from Chhattisgarh reached Uttar Pradesh's Ghaziabad town on Tuesday to arrest a TV news anchor from his home for playing a doctored clip of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi but he was instead arrested by the Noida police who released him on bail later in the night, officials said.
While police from Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh landed at Zee News anchor Rohit Ranjan's home in Ghaziabad's Indirapuram near the national capital early morning, the team from Noida in Bharatiya Janata Party-governed Uttar Pradesh reached a couple of hours later.
The Chhattisgarh police landed around 5.30 am, while the local Ghaziabad police reached an hour later and the Noida police got there after 8 am, officials said.
"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 Indian Penal Code 505 (public mischief) on a complaint by his own channel over a doctored video played during his show on July 1," a Noida police officer told PTI, seeking anonymity.
After more than 12 hours, the Noida police said in a statement that Ranjan was arrested by them from his Ghaziabad home as part of an investigation in a case lodged under IPC 505(2) (statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill will between classes).
'Zee News anchor Rohit Ranjan was brought to Noida from his residence in Indrapuram for questioning in the case. After interrogation, he was arrested on the basis of evidence. He has been released on bail as the sections against him are bailable offences. Further investigation in the case is underway,' the police statement read.
In Raipur, Senior Superintendent of Police Prashant Agrawal told PTI that 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.
As the drama unfolded outside Ranjan's home with the police teams from two states ready to arrest the anchor, a senior Ghaziabad police officer told PTI that the local city police were not involved in the case.
'Chhattisgarh Police is standing outside my house to arrest me without informing the local police. Is it legal?' the Zee News anchor tweeted in Hindi, tagging Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and the state's police.
The Raipur police tweeted its response.
'There is no such rule to inform. Still, now they are informed. The police team has shown you the court's warrant of arrest. You should in fact cooperate, join in the investigation and put your defence in court,' it said.
Chhattisgarh police was not able to arrest him and a member of the team led by a deputy superintendent of police-rank officer later alleged obstruction by the local police.
He claimed that the Ghaziabad police had intervened in the legal procedure by taking Ranjan away with them from his home and then saying that he had been detained by the Noida police.
"We have registered a criminal case against Rohit Ranjan at Civil Lines police station in Raipur. We had the arrest warrant and the court order. We came here regarding that in the morning but even after 12 hours the police here (Ghaziabad and Noida) are not informing us about Rohit Ranjan's whereabouts," the official told PTI.
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).
Officials said these are more serious charges than the case lodged by the Noida police.
On July 2, a day after the video was aired, Ranjan had 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.
However, the video was used by several people, including BJP leaders, to attack Gandhi and the Congress party after the Udaipur murder on June 28.
The assailants in Udaipur purportedly admitted their crime in a video clip, saying it was meant to avenge an insult to Islam.
FIRs have been lodged in Chhattisgarh's Bilaspur and Raipur, in UP's Noida, and in Rajasthan in connection with Gandhi's doctored video.
Congress legislator Yadav, whose FIR in Raipur led to the Chhattisgarh police action, has also accused the director and chairman of Zee News, its chief executive officer for conspiring to spread fabricated and fake news against Gandhi in a bid to incite communal riots and disturb social harmony, a police official said.