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‘Bail is rule, jail an exception’ — Delhi court grants bail to journalist Mandeep Punia

Freelance journalist Mandeep Punia was arrested while covering farmers' protests at Singhu border Saturday for allegedly misbehaving with police personnel.

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New Delhi: A Delhi court Tuesday granted bail to freelance journalist Mandeep Punia, who had been arrested at the Singhu border Saturday.

The Delhi Police had alleged that Punia was misbehaving with police personnel and obstructing a public servant from discharging duties at the Singhu border, where farmers have been protesting against the Modi government’s contentious farm laws for over two months.

He was charged under sections 186 (obstructing any public servant while discharging public functions), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) and 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty) of the Indian Penal Code.

He was remanded to 14 days judicial custody Sunday, after which he applied for bail, represented by Advocate Sarim Naved.

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Satvir Singh Lamba allowed his application, noting that while the alleged scuffle took place around 6.30pm on 30 January, the FIR was registered at around 1.21 am the next day.

“Moreover, the complainant, victims and witnesses are police personnel only. Hence, there is no possibility that accused/ applicant can able to influence any of the police officials,” the court added.

CMM Lamba pointed out that Punia is a freelance journalist and then granted him bail, observing, “It is well settled legal principle of law that ‘bail is a rule and jail is an exception’. Hence, considering the totality of facts and circumstances of the present case, submissions on behalf of both the parties as well as keeping in view the period of detention of the accused in judicial custody, he is admitted to bail.”

He has been ordered to furnish a bail bond of Rs 25,000, along with usual directions to cooperate with the investigation and not tamper with evidence.

Also read: Rakesh Tikait is ‘ready to go to jail’, insists he doesn’t have any political ambitions

‘Not carrying press card no ground for arrest’

In his bail application, Punia had asserted that he was innocent and had been falsely implicated.

He had also contended that he was merely carrying out his journalistic duties when he was apprehended by the Delhi Police. The plea also pointed out the delay of seven hours in filing the FIR.

His bail application had pointed out that another journalist arrested along with Punia was released soon after, but the latter was still under custody because he wasn’t carrying a press card.

“Accused is a freelance journalist and not carrying press card can be no grounds for a case or arrest,” the plea added.

During the hearing, the public prosecutor had opposed the bail application, noting that the allegations against Punia are grave and serious.

He had further submitted that Punia may again indulge in “instigating the protesters and may create nuisance at the protest site with the group of different people and may hamper the investigation”.

Also read: Protesting farmers announce 3-hour nationwide ‘chakka jam’ on 6 February


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