HRDA has issued an urgent appeal to the National Human Rights Commission of India on December 12, 2020 regarding the illegal arrest and custodial torture of journalist Mr. Prashant Kanojia by UP Police. Mr. Kanojia is a freelance journalist and Dalit human Rights Defender.
Mr. Kanojia was arrested on August 18, 2020 by a group of policemen from his house on the basis of a complaint by Sub-Inspector Mr. Dinesh Kumar Shukla in the Hazratganj Police station. The FIR was registered under Sections 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony,) 153-B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration), 42O (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 465 (punishment for forgery), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), 469 (forgery for purpose of harming reputation), 500 (punishment for defamation), 505(1)(b) (intent to cause, or which is likely to cause fear or alarm to the public), 505(2) (statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill will between classes) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 66 of the Information Technology Act.
At the Hazratgani Police Station, Station House Officer Mr. Anjani Kumar Pandey abused Mr. Kanojia with castiest slurs. He assaulted by the HRD with ten other policemen about 30-40 times, after which Mr. Kanojia lost consciousness. He was administered electric shocks when he regained consciousness, following which he fell unconscious again. The entire torture sequence was video recorded by Hazratgani police, and he was not given any food or water. His demand to call his lawyer and his wife was also refused. Although he was taken for a medical examination the next morning, no medical checkup was performed while a medical certificate was issued stating everything was fine.
Mr. Kanojia was produced before a magistrate and sent to a temporary jail in Lucknow for seven days of quarantine, where he was asked to do the cleaning. When he refused, he was not allowed to sleep at night. He complained about this to the deputy jailor Mr. Gaur, who justified his punishment. He was forced to drink water from toilets and was given dirty blankets used by COVID-19 patients.
Mr. Kanojia was jailed for 80 days and not allowed to meet or call his lawyer despite his repeated pleas before he was released on bail. His illegal arrest and torture was in reprisal for his tweet criticising a self-styled godman. He was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Police for sedition over a social media post in 2019 and was released on bail on June 19, 2019 by the Supreme Court.