The Supreme Court Thursday sought Uttar Pradesh government's reply on a bail plea of a journalist arrested under the stringent UP Gangsters and Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act for alleged blackmailing and extortion of Noida police officials.
The top court asked the Allahabad High Court to proceed with a similar plea before it concerning the bail of journalist and decide the issue expeditiously.
A bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant issued notice to the state government and sought its reply within two weeks.
Advocates Prashant Bhushan and Govind Ji said the journalist was arrested in August last year but the high court was not deciding his bail plea.
Mr Bhushan claimed the high court has been frequently adjourning the matter and giving opportunity to the state government to file counter affidavit, without appreciating uncontroverted facts on record and baseless, motivated and uncorroborated charges levelled against the journalist.
He said petitioner Nitish Pandey is a journalist and not a gangster that he can be charged under the stringent law.
Mr Bhushan said he had carried several news stories on his news portal against Noida police exposing corruption in the department.
"The High Court while adjourning the bail application on several occasions failed to appreciate that cases concerning incarceration of an individual and jeopardizing personal liberty based on false prosecution and motivated allegations which are to be viewed seriously and ordinarily Courts ought to lean in favour of guaranteeing personal liberty," said Mr Pandey's plea.
He claimed to be a journalist since 2009 who was previously associated with reputed news channels.
"News regarding functioning of police department is often aired on the said news portal. The Petitioner enjoys good reputation, having no criminal antecedent," the plea said.
It said, "News aired on the portal has often been appreciated by police officials of the Respondent State, except that few recent news stories published by the Petitioner, irked senior police officials of Noida police, which ultimately led to registration of the FIR on false pretext and bald allegations, leading to arrest of the Petitioner from his Lucknow residence, within three hours, from the time when FIR was registered in Noida".
Mr Pandey was arrested on August 23, 2019, under various provisions of U.P Gangsters and Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act, 1986.
According to the FIR registered in the case, one alleged organized gang of people relating to journalism is acquiring pecuniary material and other benefits in an illegal manner by exercising wrongful pressure over the public officers especially officers of police department and by restraining them in performing their lawful duties.
It was further alleged that the active members of the gang are Susheel Pandit, Udit Goel, Raman Thakur, Chandan Rai and Nitish Pandey which operated largely by luring police officials to act in their favour.
The plea said it was alleged in the FIR that police officials who didn't come under the gang's influence were blackmailed and their image was tarnished through social media by publishing baseless and fictitious information.