After the advent of the internet, the public has caught various news organisations propagating false information. However, rarely does it happen that a public authority decides to take charge. Now, Calcutta High Court (HC) has come forward with a warning to the Times of India.
TOI tried to spread false information
A serious attempt by Times of India (TOI) to downplay Bengal violence has come to the light. In a report published on 4h January (2022), the newspaper published false facts about the CBI investigation on post-poll violence in Bengal.
The news report was titled, “Post-poll violence in Bengal: No proof in 21 rapes, rape-attempt cases mentioned by NHRC, CBI says”.
The newspaper reported that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) informed Calcutta High Court that, 21 cases of rape and rape attempts were found non-substantiated by it. CBI is probing 64 such cases on the orders of Calcutta High Court. According to the report, CBI had registered 39 cases while 4 were still under investigation.
Calcutta High Court labels it as fake news and asks TOI to apologise
Meanwhile, Calcutta High Court was quick to respond to the report. Court categorically said that report published by TOI is factually incorrect. Y.J. Dastoor, Additional Solicitor General of Calcutta High Court asked the newspaper to apologise and withdraw the report.
In a letter to TOI, ASG said, “Unfortunately, the said reports contain not an iota of truth with regard to the statements allegedly made on behalf of the C.B.I. None of the statements as reported in the aforesaid two articles were made on behalf of the C.B.I. in the hearing yesterday. In fact, the headlines and the facts and figures mentioned in your said report are absolutely untrue. It is a cause of great concern that such false reports in a sensitive matter have been published by a newspaper of such repute.”
Asking TOI to publicly apologise, ASG said, “It would be in the fitness of things to immediately publish a retraction as to the authenticity of the facts contained in the said reports, as published by you, as also to publically apologize for the same.”
Calcutta High Court had directed CBI to investigate poll-violence
With the onset of campaigning for Bengal assembly elections 2020, the whole state was under the grip of poll violence. Political killings had become rampant, and rapes had become a tool to silence female voters. The killings (before and after polls) were so much prevalent that Governor had to come forward to express his disappointment.
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) ran a detailed investigation on the matter. The NHRC committee which had been tasked with investigating the incidents of post-poll violence in West Bengal revealed that a very large number of complaints had been received, close to 2,000, from 23 districts. Roughly 35% of the complaints related to homicide or murder and 4% to rape.
Later in August 2021, Calcutta HC had ordered for CBI investigation on 64 rape and rape attempts. Along with that, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) is also running a detailed investigation into the violence.
TOI-A history of eye-catch but factually wrong headlines
TOI has been infamous for its irresponsible journalism. From running an insidious headline on attacks on CRPF convoy to misquoting P V Sandhu; TOI has not left anyone untouched when it comes to misleading reports. Recently, they tried to misrepresent a vaccination statistic to paint India in a bad light.
TOI is one of the most-read English Newspapers in India. It is circulated in 500 cities in India and approximately 2-crore people read it. But time and again they have shown irresponsible journalistic credentials. This is not how media in democracy should behave.