HRDA has issued an urgent appeal to the National Human Rights Commission of India on August 25, regarding fabricated charges against journalist Mr. Trinath Akash by the Jharkhand Police for reporting on the mysterious death of a woman police officer.
Mr. Trinath Akash is a journalist and the founder of the Gram Sabha, a social media-based news portal reporting on local governance and development.
Ms. Rupa Tirkey, sub-inspector of Police, women police station Sahibganj was found hanging in her official quarter on May 3, 2021. It was investigated by a police team and based on the investigation police sub-inspector Shiv Kumar was arrested for harassing Ms. Tirkey leading to her suicide. However, Ms. Tirkey’s family suspected she was murdered and filed a police complaint naming Pankaj Mishra, the MLA from Barhit (an elected member of the state assembly), the state’s Chief Minister, and two other police officers as prime suspects. It got support from various quarters in the state. Mr. Akash filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Ranchi High Court demanding a CBI investigation in the issue.
Like several media outlets, The Gram Sabha also published multiple reports on the issue. Mr. Akash also published a video story based on the call records which showed multiple calls between Mr. Mishra and the members of the investigation team on July 12, 2021, and speculated that they were complicit in harassing Ms. Tirkey and tampering with evidence. Mr. Mishra filed a written complaint with the police against Mr. Akash for obtaining his phone records without authorization and for causing mental harassment and damaging his reputation. Based on his complaint, an FIR was registered by the Police under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Information and Technology Act. Mr. Akash was not formally informed by the police on the registration of the case.
The action by the Jharkhand police completely violates DK Basu guidelines as the police did not inform the HRD of grave charges against him. Mr. Akash as a journalist was only rendering his duty and fabricated charges against him violates the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19 (a) of the Indian Constitution to intimidate and gag him for doing his job as a journalist. It also violates the Declaration of Human Rights Defenders which seeks to protect the monitoring and advocacy functions of defenders.