HC quashes FIR of SC-ST act against Times Now journalist

Chandigarh: In a significant ruling, the Punjab and Haryana High Court dismissed the FIR filed against Times Now Navbharat reporter Bhawana Gupta last year. The case revolved around allegations of a road accident involving a Dalit woman, where Gupta was accused of abusive casteist language.

Justice Anoop Chitkara, presiding over the bench, stated, “Continuing criminal proceedings would amount to an abuse of law.” Invoking Section 482 CrPC, the Court decided to quash the FIR and all subsequent actions against Gupta.

The incident from May 2023 involved Gupta, her cameraman Mrityunjay Kumar, and their driver Parmender Singh Rawat. They were arrested and charged under sections 279, 337, and 427 of the Indian Penal Code. Additionally, Gupta faced charges under sections 3 and 4 of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

Gupta’s defense argued that even if the allegations were true, she had no intention to abuse the woman with casteist slurs. Her counsel emphasized Gupta’s lack of knowledge about the woman’s caste and labeled the FIR as politically motivated to suppress media freedom.

While the state counsel contended that Gupta had indeed intended to insult the woman with casteist remarks, Justice Chitkara highlighted that the offenses of rash driving, causing hurt, and mischief causing damage were attributed to the driver, not Gupta.

The court stressed that even if the allegations regarding the damage to the mobile phone were true, they did not constitute offenses punishable under IPC sections 279, 337, and 427 for Gupta.

The crucial point established during the proceedings remained undisputed – Gupta had no prior knowledge of the woman’s or her family’s caste.

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