A day after Congress put up posters listing the criminal cases against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya and a few other Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders at major road intersections in Lucknow, two congress workers, Sudhanshu Bajpai and Lulu Kanaujia, were arrested on Sunday.
A first information report (FIR) has also been filed against the owner of the printing press who reportedly printed the poster and one "unknown" person.
The Congress's posters targeted the CM, Deputy CM and six BJP leaders. The backside of the poster carried images of Radha Mohan Das Aggarwal, MLA Sangeet Som, MP Sanjeev Balyan, MLA Umesh Malik, UP minister Suresh Rana and Bhopal MP Sadhvi Pragya. The posters refer to them as "rioters" and questions: “When will money be recovered from these rioters?”.
It may be noted that Congress's posters have come up as a reaction to the UP government’s hoardings--put up on the CM’s order--displaying personal details and names of the 57 persons accused of vandalising public and government property during the protests in the city against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act on December 19, 2019.
The hoardings were put up on March 6 in areas that fall under the jurisdiction of four police stations – Hazratganj, Thakurganj, Hasanganj and Qaiserbagh.
The accused including former IPS officer SR Darapuri and social activist Sadaf Jafar were asked to pay Rs 64 lakh or get their properties seized.
Booked Under Colonial Act
The Lucknow police alleged that the two Congress workers had put up the posters reportedly to disrupt the “peace in the city” and as part of a "conspiracy." The duo has been booked under India Penal Code 505 (1) (b): intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public, whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or public tranquillity.
Furthermore, a colonial act, Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867 2 (3), has also been slapped on them and an unknown printing press. Section 3 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act has also been cited in the FIR.
NewsClick has a copy of the FIR in its possession.
Senior lawyer Abu Bakar Sabbaq, talking about the alleged human rights violation while using such colonial-era act, told NewsClick, "This act was used against those who used to oppose the policies of the British. Those same rulers also framed 124 (a), which is known as sedition. The only purpose of such laws is only to suppress every voice raised against the government. Now, in today's era, such a law should not exist, but is still being used in a state like Uttar Pradesh.”
Piyush Mishra, the advocate for activist Deepak Kabir, whose picture has also appeared on the hoardings by the UP government, told NewsClick, "They have mentioned in the FIR that public property damage act has been used against them as they put up flex banner on the statue of Ambedkar at Hazratganj intersection. It is installed on the railings and the FIR alleges that due to the poster, the railing has been damaged."
The lawyer questioned how a small flex banner can damage the hand railing. "This is mockery of the law,” he said.
"The colonial-era act is useless in this country now. I am sure that students of law barely even know about this act. This government is not taking legal action; instead, it is taking revenge. This act has hardly been used in UP in the past 40 years," he added.
The Congress's posters had come up a day after a Samajwadi Party (SP) leader put up posters and a hoarding naming rape-accused ex-Union minister Chinmayanand and Unnao rape convict Kuldeep Singh Sengar, also a former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader. The posters warned the "daughters of the state” to ensure their safety.
Also read: Congress Joins Poster War in UP, Lists Criminal Cases Against BJP Leaders, Including Adityanath