ABP journalist Rahul Kulkarni
ABP journalist Rahul Kulkarni

While denying police the custody of a Marathi news channel reporter Rahul Kulkarni on Thursday and going on to grant him bail, a Bandra magistrate court had observed in its order that Kulkarni had acted in a hurried and irresponsible manner in a bid to give breaking news and that his news report was ‘clearly misleading’ and led to the situation in Bandra where migrant workers gathered in large numbers.

The court observed that news report given by him in the morning hours of April 14 was ‘clearly misleading’ in the background of the Prime minister’s address which made it clear that the lockdown will be extended and transport utilities will not function. It said that in case it was published before the prime minister’s address, he should have waited for the address at 10 AM.

The metropolitan magistrate said that the journalist acted in a hurried and irresponsible manner in a bid to give some breaking news and should have waited for the prime minister’s address which would clarify the position on the lockdown. “His behavior has actually led to the present situation,” the court said.

In the background of the extremely difficult situation our country and the world is facing due to the pandemic, it said that maximum precaution is required to be taken by persons like the accused while reporting any news.

Noting that Kulkarni had pressed the ground of freedom of speech enshrined in the Constitution, the court observed, “There can be no doubt that the press enjoys freedom of speech and expression. However, the said freedom cannot be said to be unfettered.” Adding that “reasonable restrictions are required to be followed…further, there should be no incitement of offence as well,” it said that the accused (Kulkarni) should have borne these restrictions in mind while reporting the news item.

Cautioning that the media has tremendous influence on the public, the court stated that news reports be made more sensibly and responsibly with anticipation of its consequences.

Making these observations in its remand order, the court had gone on to deny police custody of Kulkarni as it found the reasons given by the police seeking his custody were not convincing and cogent and sent him to judicial custody will April 30. Thereafter, his lawyer had immediately filed a bail plea and Kulkarni was granted bail.

Kulkarni was booked by the police for spreading false news that special trains would start to take stranded migrants to their natives. While the news did not mention from where or at what time the trains would start, the police allege that this news led to the gathering of migrants in large numbers outside Bandra station on Tuesday – the day the news was aired.

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