A Judicial Magistrate Court in Coimbatore has granted bail to the founder of SimpliCity, a website based in Coimbatore. The founder, Andrew Sam Raja Pandian will however have to furnish a bond for Rs.10,000 with two sureties and appear before the respondent police to sign a register from May 1.
The arrest of Andrew Sam Raja Pandian on April 23 under the Epidemic Diseases Act created furore amongst journalists in the state. It was an unprecedented move since the state's fight against coronavirus began, he was held over reports about shortage of food for postgraduates in the Coimbatore Medical College and Hospital and irregularities in the Public Distribution system.
In addition to this, the portal alleged that two of its journalists were illegally detained by the police for questioning for over 8 hours before the founder's arrest. The police's actions were seen as an effort to muzzle the media, considering that reports of food shortage in the Coimbatore Medical College and hospital had been published by several news outlets across the state.
In its final order the court has said that the police strongly objected to bail being given to Andrew and accused him of attempting to create fear amongst the public.
"Police has raised strong objection in releasing the accused on bail stating that investigation of this case is in the initial stage, he published the false story with a malafide intention to create fear in public, he published the false news with a intention to create a law and order problem, and if released on bail, he may again publish false news in social media and create an uncertain situation," stated the order.
The counsel for the petitioner in turn submitted that the petitioner was merely doing his duty as a journalist.
"The Learned counsel for the petitioner submitted that the petitioner is innocent and as a journalist he did his job and he never published a false news and propaganda against the state. The journalists are the fourth pillar in our democratic country. Petitioner is the only breadwinner of his family. Further the petitioner counsel submitted that there is no malafide intention to publish this news, and he is not connected with any political group. Petitioner is ready to abide by any condition imposed by this court and ready to furnish sufficient sureties to the satisfaction of this court and he undertakes that he will not tamper with any of the witnesses," states the order.
After hearing out both sides, despite objections from the police, the court decided to grant bail to Andrew.
He had been arrested for offences under Sections 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by a civil servant), 505 (i) (Statements conducing to public mischief) of the IPC and Section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act.