Arrested over alleged Naxal links, Bastar-based journalist allowed bail after a year in jail
Santosh Yadav v. State of Chhattisgarh & Ors. (SLP (Cr) 7532/2016) Bastar based Journalist Santosh Yadav had been in Jail since September 2015. He was arrested on the basis of his alleged relations with the naxalites and was portrayed as naxalite sympathizer by the police. In the chargesheet filed by the Chhattisgarh Police on February 17, 2016, Yadav was charged under various sections of the Arms Act 1959 and the Explosive Substances Act 1908. He was also charged under sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 (UAPA) and the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005 (CSPSA), both of which are anti-terrorism legislations. The pivotal point of the prosecution’s story was that he was seen by Company Commander Mahant Singh during an ambush with the naxalites at around 2 AM. As per Mahant Singh’s statement, during the encounter, a flash grenade was ignited and in the light of that flash grenade, he saw Santosh Yadav standing behind the naxalites. However, the same Mahant Singh- who stated to have seen Yadav from a distance and under artificial light- failed to identify him with certainty during the Test Identification Parade. Nothing incriminating was recovered from his person at the time of arrest and no such item was found pursuant to the discovery statement. The recovery memo stated that a few meters of fabric, a paint box, couple of paint brushes and a newspaper was discovered. However, these items were sufficient enough for the police to book a journalist under serious penal provisions. After his bail application was denied by the NIA Court and the Hon’ble High Court of Chhattisgarh, Special Leave Petition seeking bail was filed before the Hon’ble Supreme Court on the following grounds: • At the time of filing of the SLP, Santosh was in custody for around 9 months and still charges were not framed against him. • He was a journalist (Stringer) with the Nav Bharat newspaper for the last 3 years and had a clean record with the newspaper establishment. • He had no previous criminal record. • The informant failed to identify him with certainty during the Test Identification Parade though he stated to have seen him from a distance during the encounter. • Santosh’s home was approximately 150 mts. from the concerned police station, Darbha, though he never absconded, he was arrested after 40 days of the incident. And if he was correctly identified by the informant on the date of the incident itself, there would have been no reason for the police to allow him to roam free in his village, close to the police station for about 40 day. • Both the so called recovery memos did not indicate recovery of any incriminating material. • Inquest was done 2 days after the incident and the name of Santosh was not mentioned, even though according to the informant Santosh’s identity was revealed at the time of the incident itself. • The station diary entry number had not been entered in the FIR and it was possible that the copy of the FIR given to Santosh and filed in this case may had been different from the actual entry in the station diary. Hon’ble Supreme Court vide its order dated 27.2.2017 allowed the SLP and directed thereby that Santosh Yadav be released on bail.