Arrest of journalist stayed by Himachal Pradesh HC who exposed irregularities in e-pass system by procuring pass using identities of Amitabh Bachchan, Donald Trump

The arrest of Aman Kumar Bharadwaj, a journalist who exposed flaws in the e-pass services that permitted tourists to enter Himachal Pradesh during the COVID-19 outbreak, has been stayed by the Himachal Pradesh High Court. 

With his own Aadhaar data, the journalist sought for e-passes in the identities of Amitabh Bachchan and Donald Trump. The e-passes were prepared without any authentication, much to his amazement. 

The prosecution of the journalist, against whom an FIR was lodged the same evening he broadcasted the information about the anomalies, was postponed by a single-judge bench led by Justice Ajay Mohan Goel.

The court ordered that no oppressive action be taken against the petitioner until the next hearing of the case in association with the registration of FIR No. 51/21, dated 07.05.2021 at Police Station Shimla East, District Shimla, under Sections 419, 468, and 471 of the Indian Penal Code, Section 66(D) of the Information Technology Act, and Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act.

On the evening of May 5, a FIR was lodged at Police Station Shimla under Sections 419, 468, and 471 of the Indian Penal Code, as well as Sections 66(D) of the Information Technology Act and the Disaster Management Act’s Section 54. 

The petitioner claimed in his petition that the lodging of the FIR was nothing more than an “attempt to curtail journalistic freedom” in Himachal Pradesh. The cause for the news broadcast was the unexpected surge in interstate vehicular mobility, despite the state’s stringent prohibitions. 

The petitioner had discovered the overall tale as part of his duties, having in mind that Article 19(1) (a) of India’s constitution recognizes freedom of press to be a vital aspect of the constitution’s guarantee of freedom of speech and expression. The right to freedom of the press also includes the ability to “examine, disseminate, publish, and circulate the opinion and other viewpoints with total freedom using all available methods of publication and broadcasting,” according to the petition. The objective of registering on the web-portal, it was said, was not only to check the papers put on the site by the person entering the State, but also to authenticate the purpose of the visit. 

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