FIR Against Prashant Bhushan, Kannan Gopinathan in Gujarat

Gopinathan said such action, in the middle of a pandemic, only reveals the Modi government's priorities.

New Delhi: The Gujarat police, upon the complaint of retired army jawan Jaydev Joshi in Rajkot, have filed an FIR against lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan and former IAS officer Kannan Gopinathan for ‘hurting religious sentiments’ and ‘commenting on government orders’. respectively.

The details of the FIR have not been disclosed.

Speaking to The Wire, Kannan Gopinathan said, “I don’t even have the details of what the FIR is about. I’ve got information only from the media which says I’ve been booked for posting some government orders on social media to mislead people. I’ve no idea which order is the FIR about and whichever order be it, if government orders mislead people what could be done?”

“There has to be a basic verification before filing an FIR. It’s not that someone complains and the police immediately file an FIR. And it’s not just me, a journalist has also been booked. Does that mean people should not share government orders to put out their opinion on it?” he added.

The Bhaktinagar police station in Gujarat’s Rajkot registered an FIR on Sunday evening. Following this, investigation was transferred to the special operations group (SOG).

Gopinathan says the conduct of the police has revealed the priorities of the Modi government.

News editor at National Herald Ashlin Mathew has also been booked along with Gopinathan, allegedly for sharing the same government order.

“During this time, when so much is happening in the country, just look at how the government is using its resources to look into stuff like this, even consider them, file an FIR, investigate and transfer it to SOG. Just imagine, the priorities of this government,” added Gopinathan.

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Prashant Bhushan has been booked for allegedly using objectionable language against the Ramayana and Mahabharata.

“In his complaint, Joshi accused Bhushan of using word opium with Ramayana and Mahabharata in a tweet made on March 28 which has hurt the sentiments of many Hindu people,” said Rohit Rawal, SOG’s investigating offer in the case.

“As crores starve & walk hundreds of miles home due to forced lockdown, our heartless ministers celebrate consuming & feeding the opium of Ramayana & Mahabharata to the people,” reads Bhushan’s tweet.

“On the basis of the complaint, we have registered a case against the trio under section 34 (criminal act done by several persons), 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage the religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or the religious beliefs), 505(1) (publishing or circulating any statement, rumour or report which can cause fear and alarm amongst people) and section 120 -B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code. We are verifying the tweet. Further investigation is on,” added Rawal.

Gopinathan added that this FIR would not stop him from putting out his opinion.

“My writing on various actions the government is taking during COVID-19 would continue despite any of such acts. There is nothing that can stop it. It’s my freedom of expression and it is my duty to share whatever my opinion and suggestion with the public on what should be done and what should be avoided during this crisis,” said Gopinathan.

“One of the report in a Gujarati newspaper suggested that I’ve apparently retweeted Prashant Bhushan’s tweet but that is not the case. Even if I had retweeted that, how could it become a crime. How does it become a crime of I write something about the government order? How does it become a crime if I retweet something?” he added.

Gopinathan had recently shared a government order in which he was being asked to join duty immediately in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic and wrote, “Received a letter from the govt, asking me to re-join duties as IAS. While I extend all my services, in health, wealth and mind to the govt in this fight against covid-19 pandemic, it will be as a free & responsible citizen and not anymore as an IAS officer.”