Scribe Jagendra Singh burning case : SC seeks response from Centre, UP on PIL

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday decided to entertain a plea seeking CBI probe into the circumstances leading to the withdrawal of a petition by a journalist’s son, who had sought an independent probe into the alleged burning and murder case of his father in which a state minister and five others have been booked. An application filed by a Lucknow scribe has claimed that the son of slain journalist, Jagendra Singh, was pressurised and threatened by the alleged killers of his father, following which he had written a letter to his lawyer on July 23 wishing to withdraw the petition.

He said this was substantiated by his interaction with him on social media. An FIR was registered against Samajwadi Party government’s Minister Ram Murti Singh Verma and five cops on the basis of a complaint by Jagendra’s son Raghvendra after the journalist died during treatment at a Lucknow hospital. A bench, headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu, issued notices to the Centre and Uttar Pradesh Government on the application filed by Mudit Mathur and sought replies from all parties within three weeks.

The court will hear the matter along with the main petition on which the notices were issued on June 22. The fresh plea has sought a probe into the case by a CBI team consisting of officers from outside Uttar Pradesh. The applicant has also sought laying down guidelines for protection of journalists, impartial grievance redressal mechanism for scribes apprehending assaults and other acts of victimisation and comprehensive victim and witness protection programme.

In the main petition filed by Delhi-based journalist Satish Jain, the apex court had also sought response from the Union Home Ministry, the state government and the Press Council of India. Jagendra was allegedly set on fire by police officials during a raid at his house in Awas Vikas Colony of Sadar Bazar area in Saharanpur on June one. He succumbed to injuries on June eight.

“On June 1, according to his family members, a group of policemen and goons came in two cars in late afternoon and barged into his house in Shahjahanpur. Initially, they had an argument with him reminding him he had been repeatedly told not to write anything about Verma, then they pinned him down, poured petrol on him and set him on fire,” the petition said.

“Journalist Jagendra invited Ram Murti Verma’s ire by posting reports on Facebook about illegal mining activities and land grabbing against the minister,” it alleged. Seeking CBI probe, the plea said inspite of all evidence, “no arrest has been made by the state police and there is every likelihood of destruction of evidence by them.

“The fact that police officials and a senior politician have been arrayed in the case as accused has shaken the confidence of public in investigation conducted by the State Police,” it said, adding that “it is desirable to entrust the investigation to the CBI”.

“Safety of Indian journalists has long been compromised, particularly in small towns where local authorities can wield enormous power. According to PCI, a statutory press watchdog group, 79 journalists were murdered in the past two and a half years in India, with very few convictions,” it said.

According to family members of the deceased, Jagendra had posted something on Facebook against Verma regarding his alleged involvement in illegal mining and land grabbing, after which the minister sent cops to his house who allegedly doused the scribe with kerosene and set him on fire. The FIR has been lodged under IPC 302 (murder), 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) and 506 (criminal intimidation). The Allahabad High Court had on June 16 directed the UP government to file a status report in the case within a week and asked it to inform it about the stage of investigating a PIL filed by an NGO, ‘We The People’.

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