NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today sought responses from the Centre and Uttar Pradesh government on a plea seeking CBI probe into a case of alleged setting ablaze and murder of a journalist, in which a state minister and five others have been booked.
Besides the Union Home Ministry (MHA) and the state government, a bench of Justices M Y Eqbal and Arun Mishra also issued notice to the Press Council of India (PCI) and sought their responses to the PIL within two weeks.
The bench was hearing the plea filed by Delhi-based journalist Satish Jain, through senior lawyer Adish C Aggarwala and advocate Aditya Singh. The PIL has sought a CBI probe into the death of the scribe, Jagendra Singh.
Jagendra was allegedly set on fire by police officials during a raid at his house in Awas Vikas Colony of Sadar Bazar area in Saharanpur on June one. He succumbed to injuries on June eight.
An FIR was registered against ruling Samajwadi Party Minister Ram Murti Singh Verma and five cops on the basis of a complaint by Jagendra's son Raghvendra after the journalist passed away during treatment at a Lucknow hospital.
"On 1 June, according to his family members, a group of policemen and goons came in two cars in late afternoon andbarged into his house in Shahjahanpur. Initially, they had an argument with him reminding him he had been repeatedly told not to write anything about Verma, then they pinned him down, poured petrol on him and set him on fire," the petition said.
"Journalist Jagendra invited Ram Murti Verma's ire by posting reports on Facebook about illegal mining activities and land grabbing against the minister," it alleged.
Seeking CBI probe, the plea said inspite all the evidence, "no arrest has been made by the state police and there is every likelihood of destruction of evidence by them".
The fact that police officials and a senior politician have been arrayed in the case as accused has shaken the confidence of public in investigation conducted by the State Police, it said, adding that "it is desirable to entrust the investigation to the CBI".
"Safety of Indian journalists has long been compromised, particularly in small towns where local authorities can wield enormous power. According to PCI, a statutory press watchdog group, 79 journalists were murdered in the past two and a half years in India, with very few convictions," it said.
According to the family members of the deceased, Jagendra had posted something on Facebook against Verma regarding his alleged involvement in illegal mining and land grabbing, after which the minister sent cops to his house who allegedly doused the scribe with kerosene oil and set him on fire.
The FIR has been lodged under IPC 302 (murder), 120 B (criminal conspiracy), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) and 506 (criminal intimidation).
The Allahabad High Court had on June 16 directed the UP government to file a status report in the case within a week and asked it to inform it about the stage of investigation by June 24 on a PIL filed by an NGO, 'We The People'.