Bengaluru: The Karnataka High Court on Thursday restrained the Ghaziabad police from initiating any coercive action against Twitter India Managing Director Manish Maheshwari.
The Twitter India MD had challenged the summons issued by the Ghaziabad police in connection with a case where a Muslim man was allegedly asked to chant 'Jai Shri Ram' and beaten by goons.
The summons was part of the Ghaziabad police’s FIR against Twitter India and news website The Wire, as well as journalists Mohammed Zubair, Rana Ayyub, author Saba Naqvi, Congress politicians Salman Nizami, Maskoor Usmani and Shama Mohamed. They have been accused of sharing a viral video clip an elderly Muslim man, identified as Abdul Shamad Saifi, along with misguided information.
They had alleged that he was attacked and asked to chant 'Jai Shri Ram'. The Ghaziabad police, however, ruled out a communal angle and said that the incident was a result of personal enmity as the accused were unhappy about a 'tabeez' (amulet) Saifi had sold to them. However, Saifi’s family has denied the police’s version.
Maheshwari, who lives in Bengaluru, told the court that the Ghaziabad police had first issued a summons as a witness, to help in the investigation of the case. “Just two days before they issued me a notice under Section 41A of the CrPC (notice for appearance before a police officer), they had issued a notice under Section 160 CrPC, calling me as a witness”, Maheshwari told the court.
In an interim order, the Karnataka High Court said that the matter requires consideration, and restrained the Ghaziabad police from initiating any coercive action against Maheshwari till June 29, which is when the court said will hear the case further. The court added that in the meantime, if the Ghaziabad police want to examine Maheshwari, they shall do so online. Maheshwari had earlier told the Ghaziabad police that he is ready to join the probe via video call.
In the FIR, the Ghaziabad police said that despite the police’s statement on the incident, the accused did not pull down their tweets where they had shared the video. Twitter has also been named in the FIR as it did not take any action to take the tweets down.
The journalists said they had only shared the victim's version. Rana Ayyub had also moved the Bombay High Court which granted her protection from arrest for four weeks. Mohammed Zubair has also moved the Karnataka High Court with pre-arrest bail, and the court has issued notice in the case.
The Wire responded to the FIR saying the police was trying to make an “attempt to criminalize the reporting of anything other than the official version of events." The Editors Guild of India had also condemned the "wanton misuse of laws to criminalize reporting and dissent to harass independent media" in a statement.