By naming journalist Rachna Khaira as an accused, UIDAI is indeed shooting the messenger

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) today issued a press note on filing of FIR against journalist Rachna Khaira of The Tribune and others. It stated the “UIDAI’s act of filing an FIR with full details of the incident should not be viewed as UIDAI targeting the media or the whistle-blowers or “shooting the messenger”.

The UIDAI further stated that whenever a crime is noticed, the concerned person is required to report in the form of FIR (First Information Report) to police in which the entire details of the crime and the incident have to be disclosed to the police.

Giving details of the FIR, the UIDAI stated, “In this case, UIDAI filed a complaint on 4th Jan. 2018 with full details of everyone involved in the incident on which an FIR no. 9/18 of PS Crime branch dated 5/1/2018 has been registered in Cyber Cell of Delhi Police against Anil Kumar, Sunil Kumar, Raj, Rachna Khaira, The Tribune and other unknown persons for violations of Section 36 and 37 of Aadhaar Act, 2016, Section 419, 420, 468 and 471 of IPC and Section 66 of IT Act, 2000/8. UIDAI is duty bound to disclose all the details of the case, which was in its knowledge at the time of filing the FIR, and name everyone who is an active participant in the chain of the events leading to commission of the crime, regardless whether the person is a journalist or anyone else, so that police can conduct proper investigation and bring the real culprit to justice. It does not mean that all those who are named in the report are necessarily guilty or being targeted. Whether one is guilty or not will be decided after police investigations and trial.”

Section 39 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) defines the crimes for which public to give information of certain offences. Section 39 of the CrPC provides that public are bound to report offences relating to following sections of the Indian Penal Code i.e. (i) sections 121 to 126 and section 130 relating to offences against the State; (ii) sections 143, 144, 145, 147 and 148 relating to offences against the public tranquillity specified in Chapter VIII of the said Code; (iii) sections 161 to 165A relating to illegal gratification; (iv). sections 272 to 278 relating to adulteration of food and drugs, etc.; (v) sections 302, 303 and 304 relating to offences affecting life; (va) section 364A relating to kidnapping for ransom, etc; (vi) section 382 of the IPC offence of theft after preparation made for causing, death, hurt or restraint in order to the committing of the theft; (Vii) sections 392 to 399 and section 402 relating to offences of robbery and dacoity; (viii) section 409 (offence relating to criminal breach of trust by public servant, etc.); (ix) sections 431 to 439 relating to mischief against property; (x) sections 449 and 450 relating to house-trespass; (xi) sections 456 to 460 relating to lurking house trespass; and (xii) sections 489A to 489E relating to currency notes and bank notes).

The FIR was lodged by the UIDAI for violations of Section 36 and 37 of Aadhaar Act, 2016, Section 419, 420, 468 and 471 of IPC and Section 66 of IT Act, 2000/8. None of these offences which journalist Ms Rachna Khaira of The Tribune witnessed in the process of her journalistic profession required her to report to the public authorities as per Section 39 of the CrPC. It is pertinent to mention that Ms Rachna Khaira has not been named as a witness in the FIR but as an accused. Therefore, the clarification of the UIDAI makes its more clear that by naming Ms Rachna Khaira as anaccused, it is effectively targeting the messenger.

The UIDAI stated that “the Tribune report of Billion Aadhaar details on sale for Rs. 500 is clearly a case of misreporting being incorrect and misleading.” If it is a case of incorrect and misleading reporting, it is at best a case of defamation. This once again proves that the messenger Ms Rachna Khaira is being targeted for reporting the truth.

The filing of the FIR shall have only one impact: Aadhaar data can be misused openly but no one can report about the same.

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