Migrants’ unrest: Scribe held for misleading report gets bail

A Mumbai court here on Thursday granted bail to a television journalist arrested for allegedly ‘spreading misinformation’ through his report that the government was thinking of starting train services to ferry migrants, which allegedly led to a crowd gathering in Bandra.
Rahul Kulkarni, journalist with a Marathi news channel, was arrested by the Mumbai Police on Wednesday, a day after several migrant workers gathered near Bandra railway station here demanding that they be sent back to their home towns.
Kulkarni was produced before Bandra Metropolitan Magistrate court of P B Yerlekar on Thursday, where the police sought his custody.
Police told the court that the probe revealed that the accused had a role in the crime.
The accused was arrested since he was not cooperating in the investigation, the police said.
The police sought his custody saying that they wanted to probe the motive behind the news report and the gathering in Bandra.
The court, however, refused to entertain the police’s plea and remanded Kulkarni in judicial custody, following which his advocate Subodh Desai immediately filed a bail application.
Desai argued that there is no connection between the report which was aired by the channel at the instance of the accused, and the assembly.
He pointed out that the journalist had filed the report based on a genuine letter, which he had accessed.
The said news was carried in the morning, but after Prime Minister Narendra Modi address at 10 am, the channel ran various reports on the extension of the lockdown and cancellation of trains till May 3 as announced.
Therefore the gathering, which occurred hours later, cannot be linked to the news report of the journalist, the lawyer argued.
Finding merit in the argument, the court granted bail to the accused on a surety of Rs 15,000.
Ten others arrested in the case were remanded in police custody till April 19.
The police booked Kulkarni under Indian Penal Code Sections 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and 505(b) (intent to cause fear or alarm among public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the state or against public tranquility), and provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act.
According to police, Kulkarni allegedly gave a “false” story, saying the Railways was going to start special trains to ferry migrant workers stranded in Maharashtra back to their native states.
The police said hundreds of migrant workers gathered at the Bandra railway station on Tuesday after watching the news, and they were later dispersed.
Meanwhile, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut hailed court’s decision to grant bail to Kulkarni.
He said the arrest of the journalist in connection with the gathering of migrants in Bandra was unfortunate.
Talking to a news channel, Raut said the government and media were both important pillars of democracy.
“Both sides should be alert that such an incident should not happen again. I am happy journalist Rahul Kulkarni got bail. The police should find out truth into the charges on which he was arrested,” the Rajya Sabha member said.
Raut, who is the executive editor of Shiv Sena mouthpiece ‘Saamana’, said he was speaking as a journalist and not as a Sena leader.
He said the “Railways was also responsible for the problem”.