Farmers' protest: Delhi court to pass order on arrested journalist's bail plea on Tue; Editors Guild demands his immediate release

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New Delhi, Feb 1 (PTI) A Delhi court will pass the order on Tuesday on the bail plea of freelance journalist Mandeep Punia arrested by the Delhi Police from the Singhu border protest site here where farmers are agitating against the three contentious agri laws.

The Editors Guild of India said on Monday the arrest was an attempt to muzzle young 'courageous' voices of independent scribes and demanded his immediate release even as Punia told the court that a freelance journalist not carrying a press card can be no grounds for a case or arrest.

Punia was arrested by the police on Sunday in an FIR registered under various IPC sections including 186 (Obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 353 (Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) and 332 (Voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty). He was later sent to 14-day judicial custody.

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Satvir Singh Lamba reserved the order for Tuesday after hearing the arguments of the accused as well as the public prosecutor.

Advocate Akram Khan, appearing for Punia, told the court that the accused was merely carrying out his journalistic duties.

Khan said that another journalist was detained along with Punia but he was released around midnight. The journalist who was released was identified as Dharmender Singh.

The reason police gave different treatment to the accused was because he was not carrying a press card, he claimed.

“Accused is a freelance journalist and not carrying a press card can be no grounds for a case or arrest. The accused is a well respected member of the society being a journalist including being a frequent contributor to the Caravan magazine,” he said.

Delhi Police sought dismissal of the bail application, claiming he may again indulge in instigating the protestors and create nuisance at the protest site.

The police alleged that the accused tried to break the barricades and scuffled with police personnel deputed for the highly sensitive law and order arrangement in connection with the protest by the farmers.

It claimed that during the investigation, Punia neither cooperated nor did he disclose any name of his associates.

Demanding that Punia be released forthwith, the EGI said in a statement that Delhi Police should 'restore circumstances' in which the media can report without fear or favour.

'The EGI is deeply concerned over the incarceration of freelance journalist Mandeep Punia who was reporting on the farm protest from the Singhu border. Punia's arrest is an attempt to muzzle young courageous voices of independent journalists that through reporting are busting fake news and speaking truth to power,' it said.

The Indian Women's Press Corps, Press Club of India and the Press Association had on Sunday demanded Punia's immediate release and said no journalist should be disturbed while carrying out their duties at any place.

'Such crackdowns impinge on the media's right to report freely and interferes with our right to freedom of expression, and freedom of the press as guaranteed by the Constitution of India,' the bodies had said in a joint statement. PTI UK AG GSN GSN GSN