The Supreme Court on Friday issued an interim order preventing authorities from taking any enforcement action against Zee News presenter Rohit Ranjan, who is facing multiple cases for featuring Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s remarks on the vandalism of his office in Kerala in June as his statement on a murder of a tailor in Udaipur last week.
Ranjan faces FIRs in Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. The journalist and the channel apologized for the misrepresentation.
A vacation bench of Judges Indira Banerjee and JK Maheshwari also issued an opinion to the Center, through the office of Attorney General KK Venugopal, and the three state governments on Ranjan’s plea seeking the cancellation of the FIRs regarding the broadcasting.
“There will be an interim order restraining the respondent authorities from taking coercive measures to take the petitioner into custody in connection with the television broadcast of the show on July 1,” the bench said.
Last month, Gandhi called the SFI activists who vandalized his office in Kerala’s Wayanad district “children” and said he had no anger towards them. The channel, however, aired the comment as the Congress leader’s remarks towards the accused in the brutal murder of a Hindu tailor by two Muslim men in Udaipur.
On Tuesday, Noida police arrested Ranjan in connection with a case filed against him – a move that came after a team from Chhattisgarh police tried to arrest the journalist in a similar case. A minor brawl also broke out between the two sides.
Ranjan was arrested and subsequently released on bail, Noida Police said in a statement, adding that the articles against him are bailable offences.
The journalist then moved to the highest court through the law firm Karanjawala & Co, seeking to bludgeon the multiple lawsuits against him. He argued that his error was unintentional and, at best, covered by the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995 and programming rules.
He also pointed out that he and the channel apologized for the mistake and that the show was taken down.
Appearing for the reporter, lead solicitor Sidharth Luthra said his client was facing warrants in two states and was also being held by Uttar Pradesh police despite apologizing for the mistake. Said video was manipulated by two junior Zee News employees who have since resigned from the organization, he added.
The bench told Luthra that notice should be served on the respondents as the matter was being discussed for the first time.