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U.P. and Chhattisgarh Police jostle over the arrest of TV anchor

U.P. and Chhattisgarh Police jostle over the arrest of TV anchor

A team of the Chhattisgarh Police reached Ghaziabad on Tuesday morning to arrest TV news anchor Rohit Ranjan in connection with the airing of an allegedly misleading news over a statement by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.

However, in a dramatic turn of events, the Raipur police were allegedly obstructed by their Uttar Pradesh counterparts, who took Mr. Ranjan along with them for questioning in connection with a First Information Report (FIR) lodged in Gautam Buddha Nagar regarding the same misleading video by Zee News.

Till late evening, Mr. Ranjan was being interrogated by Gautam Buddha Nagar police and had not been produced in court. Meanwhile, Chhattisgarh Police said they were seeking legal remedies to secure his custody.

The incident snowballed into a political row with the Congress charging the Uttar Pradesh Government with deliberate interference in an ongoing investigation to shield an accused. It charged that this was the second time, after the Delhi and Punjab Police ended up in a stalemate over the arrest of BJP leader Tajinder Bagga, that a police force reporting to a BJP government has obstructed the arrest of an accused by the police of a non-BJP-ruled State.

Udayan Dehar, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Raipur, who was leading the team, said when they reached Mr. Ranjan’s residence in the Indirapuram area of Ghaziabad with non-bailable warrants issued by a Chief Judicial Magistrate court in Raipur, the journalist did not cooperate and called up the police from the local police station.

“The police officials stopped us from taking him into custody despite us showing them the warrant and our identity cards. They took Mr. Ranjan away in a private vehicle. When we objected, we were pushed back. When we reached the Indirapuram Police Station, he had already been shifted,” Mr. Dehar said.

Police sources said Mr. Ranjan was first taken to the Sector 20 police station of Noida, and from there he was taken to an undisclosed location.

Mr. Dehar further said it was not right to take away an accused against whom non-bailable warrants had been issued for questioning, and that the Chhattisgarh Police would approach the court. He said senior police officials in Ghaziabad could not be reached but they had lodged a complaint via e-mail.

Nipun Agrawal, Superintendent of Police (City), Ghaziabad, said Mr. Ranjan was wanted by the Gautam Buddha Nagar police and they had only facilitated the process.

Ranvijay Singh, Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police, Noida told The Hindu that Mr. Ranjan had been detained in connection with an FIR lodged on Tuesday morning against two producers by the Zee management under Section 505 (2) (statements creating or promoting enmity between different classes). He confirmed it was for the same alleged doctored video for which the Chattisgarh Police was seeking Mr. Ranjan’s custody. “Mr. Ranjan’s name has also cropped up during interrogation and his organisation has given a complaint seeking an investigation of his role,” Mr. Singh said.

Mr. Singh said after the interrogation, it would be decided whether he needed to be arrested and presented in court. “The duration of the interrogation depends on the gravity of charges. In this case, there are many things that need to be corroborated,” Mr. Singh said, refusing to divulge Mr. Ranjan’s location.

Mr. Singh said they were answerable to the State government. “The U.P. Police followed the law and it was a mere coincidence that the two teams reached at the same time for the same case,” he said.

Reacting to the development, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said the U.P. Police had “deliberately interfered” with an ongoing investigation to “shield an accused”. “They have deployed state machinery, without cause or explanation, to hide an individual accused of serious offences from a legitimate investigation. What is it that their political masters are afraid of being uncovered through an investigation?” Mr. Ramesh asked.

Describing it as an act of wilful contempt of the Court’s warrant by the U.P. Police and their political masters, Mr. Ramesh said this was also the second time this was happening — the BJP deploying the police force to shield repeat offenders from legitimate investigation and inquiry. “What is this nexus that the BJP is afraid of being exposed? Why doesn’t the BJP want purveyors of fake news and false reportage, which can cause serious civil unrest, to be held to account?” he questioned.

In Raipur, Additional Superintendent of Police (Raipur City) Tarkeshwar Patel said, “We had an arrest warrant from the honourable court and we had gone to the accused, Rohit Ranjan’s, house to execute it and had taken him into custody. But the local police did not cooperate with our team there and instead obstructed the process of arrest. Our team is still camping there and we will take suitable legal action hereafter.”

Police sources further added in the evening that they were adopting a “wait-and-watch” policy and trying to communicate with the Noida and Ghaziabad Police. An officer added that they were told by the Ghaziabad Police that the Noida Police had taken Mr. Ranjan but the Chhattisgarh Police could not trace him. “We tried to submit the intimation letter at the police stations and to higher authorities but they refused to accept it. We subsequently sent emails to Noida and Ghaziabad police and are now waiting for the response,” another officer said, adding that they were exploring “all legal options” to break the deadlock.

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