Police in Bihar have filed an FIR against the right wing news website OpIndia following its misleading and communal coverage of a 15-year-old’s death in Gopalganj, Bihar. Deputy inspector general in Saran district Vijay Kumar Verma announced the move in a video statement obtained by Alt News, which first reported OpIndia’s consistently false reporting on the death. OpIndia’s reporting characterised the death, which a local doctor said is likely a drowning, as a “human sacrifice” orchestrated by Muslims in the town. Alt News said that the FIR also names KhabarTak, a smaller news website.
OpIndia lashed back at Alt News’s report, accusing the fact checker of being an “Islamic propaganda website”. In the unsigned article, the publication added an update admitting that the police found no evidence that there was “no communal angle” in the death, but did not walk back its reporting. Rather, they said they were merely quoting the boy’s father. “The photographs of the deceased indeed do not suggest that the boy had died of drowning,” the article said. It is not known if OpIndia has a mortician on their editorial team, or if they consulted one.
“[The boy’s father] did reiterate that the maulvis in the mosque used to sprinkle water on his son, raising the suspicion that they were trying to do something with him,” the article maintained. OpIndia relied heavily on interviews with the dead boy’s family, who suspected that their son was murdered. The publication also complained that the police’s videotaped treatment of the boy’s parents was not being covered.
FIR under Sec 67 of IT Act and 295A of IPC
The FIR was filed under Sec 67 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code. Section 295A is a broad piece of legislation that provides for up to three years of jail and fines for “[d]eliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs”. Section 67 of the IT Act similarly provides for a prison sentence of up to 3 years and/or a fine up to Rs 5 lakh for anyone who posts “any material which is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest”.