Journalist Mandeep Puniya arrested at Singhu protest site gets bail
A Delhi court on Tuesday granted bail to independent journalist Mandeep Puniya, who was arrested on January 30 during the farmers protest at the Singhu border for allegedly obstructing police officials on duty.
Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) Satvir Singh Lamba said, “It is well settled legal principle of law that bail is a rule and jail is an exception,” He added that there was a delay in lodging the FIR and the witnesses, all being police officials, cannot be influenced.
Granting bail to Puniya on a bail bond of ₹25,000 with a surety of same amount, the judge also noted that the accused is a freelance journalist and no recovery of any material has to be made from him. “It is pertinent to mention here that the alleged incident of present case is of around 6.30pm. However, the present FIR was registered at around 1.21am the next day. Moreover, the complainant, victims and witnesses are police personnel only. Hence, there is no possibility that the accused/ applicant can be able to influence any of the police officials.”
Puniya was barred from leaving the country without informing the court.
The journalist was arrested on the grounds of misbehaving with the police personnel on duty and obstructing a public servant from discharging its duties during the farmers protest at the Singhu border. He was arrested while covering the clashes that broke out at the protest site last week.
The police opposed the bail plea, stating that Puniya was concealing his identity and misleading them. The police alleged that the accused was trying to incite the protesters at the Singhu border by shouting slogans and he even “clung” to one of the policemen on duty and dragged him.
The Editors Guild of India on Monday had demanded the release of the journalist. The guild claimed that the arrest was an attempt to curtail the voice of independent journalists who were fighting fake news.
In a separate matter, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday dismissed a plea which sought immediate release of protesters, not limited to farmers, from the alleged “illegal detention” of police since January 26 in connection with the violence during the tractor rally on Republic Day.
A bench of chief justice DN Patel and justice Jyoti Singh came down heavily on the counsel for the petitioner and said that it was nothing more than a “Publicity Interest Litigation” and not “Public Interest Litigation. It also said that the protestors cannot be released without investigation and going in the merits of the case.
It directed Delhi Police to complete the investigation of the cases in a time bound manner and produce the detainees before a magistrate within 24 hours in accordance with law.