FIR registered against Sudhir Chaudhary at Aaj Tak Report Alleging Minority Appeasement in Karnataka’s Swawalambi Sarathi Scheme.
The Karnataka High Court has instructed law enforcement not to take any coercive measures against TV news anchor Sudhir Chaudhary until September 20 in connection with a First Information Report (FIR) filed against him and news channel Aaj Tak. The FIR alleges the broadcast of false news regarding the Karnataka government’s Swawalambi Sarathi scheme, claiming it amounts to minority appeasement.
Justice Hemant Chandangoudar indicated that a decision on the plea would be made next Wednesday and advised the police against coercive actions in the interim. He stated that even if a prima facie case exists against Chaudhary, the petition may be dismissed.
The judge emphasized that there was no need to detain the anchor since all required information was already public. The court expressed a desire to resolve the matter promptly.
It was suggested that whether the news report incited hatred against a religion should be examined through an investigation.
The judge orally noted the presence of a prima facie case against Sudhir Chaudhary.
Senior Advocate Uday Holla, representing Sudhir Chaudhary, questioned whether speaking about the discrimination one faces could be categorized as hate speech. In response to a court query about the scheme’s availability to all sections of people, Chaudhary’s counsel claimed it was limited to minorities.
The judge also raised questions about the source of information indicating that the scheme was exclusive to minorities or introduced by the current government.
The complaint against the anchor and the channel was filed by the Administrative Officer of the Karnataka State Minorities Development Corporation Ltd (KSMDC).
The FIR was registered under Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence) and 505 (Statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The FIR stemmed from a September 11 news program aired on Aaj Tak, where Chaudhary discussed the KSMDC’s Swavalambi Sarathi Scheme, alleging it was exclusively available to minority communities.
According to a State government website, the Swavalambi Sarathi Scheme is accessible to minorities, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, and other backward classes. The scheme provides subsidies for the purchase of passenger or goods vehicles.
Chaudhary’s plea against the criminal case contended that in a democracy, the press and media have the right to question the government. It argued that raising questions against the government led to the registration of criminal cases and stifled the press’s voice.
The plea also asserted the absence of mens rea in the case, as there was no intention to promote enmity between groups of people, thus challenging the validity of the criminal case.
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