Sat Singh | Sep 12, 2019 | 4 min read
Hisar, Haryana: A Hisar-based journalist working with an electronic news channel has been booked by the Haryana police under defamation and illegal trespassing for exposing the State Food Civil Supplies & Consumer Affairs Department's mishandling of food grains at its storage facility.
According to the FIR dated 29/9/2019 filed at Uklana police station in Hisar district, the complainant - Assistant Food and Supplies Officer Sandeep Chahal - has stated that they learnt about the news story on July 18, in which it was shown that wheat grains were stored out in the open leading to them getting soaked in the rain due to the negligence of the department.
The journalist, Anoop Kundu of STV Haryana News, had apparently reached the storage facility with his team for a flash check of the unit. He and his team alleged that the officials present at the storage facility had used their influence to prevent them from covering the news.
The FIR stated that the department higher-ups reached the location to take stock of the situation soon after the story was broadcast on the news channel and found all the wheat covered and undamaged. Following this, the same was informed to the Hisar Deputy Commissioner, who constituted a committee. That apart, the Nagar Parishad Executive Officer reached the facility to probe the matter. Apparently, he also found all the wheat properly covered.
The complainant further stated that the footage shown by Anoop was not of their storage facility and that he had allegedly used a fake video to defame the department's reputation and the public image of its officials. Subsequently, a case has been registered in Hisar district against Anoop under the IPC Sections 451, 465 and 500.
The Journalist's Version
Anoop, however, has a different version altogether. He pointed out that the video footage and the content shown are genuine as the board on which the department’s name is written is clearly visible. Furthermore, when the District Food Supplies Controller came to check the upkeep of wheat on the same day, the officials had shown the wet and damaged wheat to him, added Anoop.
"I have also done a walk-through showing the wet and damaged wheat of the Uklana wheat storage facility and the department officials are very much seen in the video," he said, contending that the department officials, when caught red-handed and put under pressure after the department minister asked them to explain, tried to cover up the episode by making him a scapegoat.
Anoop said that when the investigating team arrived in the evening, the local department officials got the damaged wheat sacks replaced with dry wheat to evade punitive action against them. "It was such a negligence that if proved many heads may have rolled, but they targeted me by ganging up to evade action." He alleged that an inspector of the civil supplies department had called up and threatened him of dire consequences if he tried to enter in their premises without their permission or else he would get him booked.
Casting aspersions on the higher officials’ inquiry, Anoop said that they constituted a committee and completed their probe within a day. They apparently didn't even call him once to record his statement for investigation purposes. "I want to ask the authorities if the wheat procured by government agencies is being rotten in rain and the officials concerned are not doing much about it, then what is a journalist is supposed to do? I took call to do my duty and have the video footage that proves my case. How can anyone dismiss a video footage evidence, wherein all the same officials and the department name are seen?" he averred.
Anoop said that a letter has been sent to the Press Council of India, and many local journalists have come to his support to give a representation to the local Deputy Commissioner, Haryana, and the Chief Minister to look into the matter based on the evidence on ground.
Complainant Stands His Ground
Sandeep Chahal, Assistant Food and Supplies Officer, who is the complainant, stated that the FIR was registered based on the inquiries by the District Food and Supplies Controller and the Deputy Commissioner. "In the probe, it was found out that fake video was used to defame the department." On being asked whether he was present during the inquiry, Sandeep said that since he holds the additional charge of Uklana and Adampur storage facilities, he was not present at the spot.
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