HC Denies Interim Protection from Arrest to Journalist Gowhar Geelani

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Srinagar: Denying interim protection from arrest to journalist Gowhar Geelani, a bench of High Court headed by Justice Ali Muhammad Magrey Friday directed the government to file its response on the petition before the next date of hearing scheduled on May 20.

Geelani through his counsel was seeking quashing of FIR lodged against him under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act -1967.

Earlier, Cyber Police Station accused Geelani of “indulging in unlawful activities” through social media that are “prejudicial to the national integrity, sovereignty and security of India”.

The amended UAPA allows the government to proscribe individuals as terrorists and empowers more officers of the National Investigation Agency to probe cases. A person charged under the act can be jailed for up to seven years.

Appearing on behalf of the petitioner, counsel Salih Pirzada submitted that Cyber police station has no jurisdiction to register and investigate offences under the UA(P)A-1967.

“The respondent has no jurisdiction to investigate the offences beyond the purview of the Information Technology Act, 2000,” the petition argued. “There is no genesis or manner of the commissions of alleged offences mentioned in the FIR, as such, the initiation of persecution being in abuse of the process of law can’t be allowed to sustain.”

Appearing on behalf of the government, additional advocate general BA Dar submitted that the Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, transferred the case to Police Station, Sadder, for investigation in terms of order, dated 22.04.2020.

“And therefore,” he submitted before court, “the jurisdiction aspect of the matter is not available to the petitioner to seek quashment of FIR, which otherwise also, cannot be a ground for quashment of FIR.”

Gowhar is a renowned journalist and author contributing to Deutsche Welle (Germany), The Federal, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and other media outlets.

The registration of FIRs against Gowhar, freelance photojournalist Masrat Zahra and summoning of The Hindu’s special correspondent Peerzada Ashiq by police has evoked widespread criticism from different quarters.

The international bodies of Journalists like Reporters San Frontiers (RSF), Committee for Protection of Journalists (CPJ) and International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) have demanded withdrawal of charges against them.

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