Yesterday we had a spectacle of Mr Arnab Goswami the well known journalist being subjected to 12 hours of grilling by the Mumbai Police on an FIR against his uttering against Sonia Maino alias Sonia Gandhi, the leader of Congress party.
What was noticeable in the day’s proceedings was that the two people who were arrested earlier for attacking Mr and Mrs Arnab Goswami were given a bail by some Magistrate probably because the Police chose to charge them on flimsy grounds. Mr Arnab Goswami’s complaint was on the lynching of two Hindu Sadhus in Palghar and the lack of investigation on the murder and the silence of the Congress leader.
Mr Arnab Goswami has developed his own brand of journalism and his high decible complaining of the lynching in Palghar seems to have so much rattled the Congress party that its supporters filed over 200 FIRs against Mr Arnab Goswami and ultimately took to attacking him in the dead of the night when he was returning from his studios.
The incident required to be condemned by all supporters of democracy including those who are opposed to Mr Arnab Goswami. But the politicians have been mostly silent on the attack and the media is also did not raise its voice.
At the same time Mr Arnab got a stay on the FIRs from the Supreme Court except one case in Nagpur and the Mumbai Police are trying to use this FIR to teach him a lesson. The lesson that he was required to be taught was not to raise his voice on Mrs Sonia Maino/Gandhi and for that purpose he was subjected to a 12 hour interrogation.
While Police may justify that they needed to show some video footages etc and obtain his views, there was no need for the interrogation to continue for 12 hours. It could have actually been broken up and continued on the next day.
What this incident has shown is that Police in India remain the faithful servants of the politicians and at their beckoning can be made to drop sections on the assaulters and at the same time grill the journalist until he is tired and loses mental balance. We are all aware how Mrs Indira Gandhi imposed the Press Censorship in 1975 emergency time. What Sonia is trying to do is perhaps to follow the footsteps of her illustrious MIL.
This may not be some thing new in India and we could have ignored it in the normal course. But the reason why we need to highlight this here is that this kind of behaviour of the Police creates a distrust on them when we try to justify provision of some extra powers under law. The distrust on the police will translate itself as the distrust of the Government.
We should therefore consider the impact of this incident on the discussions that are being held on s the Personal Data Protection Bill (PDPB) where there are some exemptions provided to the Government and the Law enforcement related to the protection of Privacy. The undersigned has on many occassions defended the right of the Police for surveillance through CCTV footage and other means because security of the Citizens is an uncompromisable responsibility.
On the other hand there are people who are opposed to the PDPB stating that it gives too much of power to the Government and/or the Law enforcement. The current incident supports this view point and shows how a State Government can make its Police to dance to the tunes of a party controlling indirect power in the State. If this can happen in an incident like this, we can imagine that if the same party is in power in the Center, then the laws like Personal Data Protection Act and its objective of protecting the privacy of citizens would be kicked beyond the Hindu Maha Sagar into an oblivion.
There are already many motivated articles that are appearing in pliable journals stating that PDPB will “Stiffle the digital economy with overbearing regulations”. Today’s LiveMint reports one such article. This article has made the following remarks.