Getting away with murder in Akhilesh Yadav’s UP

BY SEVANTI NINAN| IN Media Freedom | 03/05/2016
Eleven months after the uproar over his death, court pronouncements and govt promises, there is neither chargesheet nor arrest in the case of Jagendra Singh.
Whatever happened after the outrage, asks SEVANTI NINAN

 A  Jun 15, 2015 video on Samachar Plus of  Jagendra Singh's family demanding the arrest of UP minister Ram Murti Verma and other five accused.


It would be difficult to find a more striking tale of impunity in attacks on the press than the story of Jagendra Singh whose pictures newspapers and TV channels were full of eleven months ago. We haven’t heard anything on this case for some months now, not until the Veer Patrakar award given to him by the Mumbai Press Club last week jolted him  back into everybody’s consciousness.

His children were there to receive the award, and to testify to the fact that yes they withdrew their PIL in the Supreme Court last year after the state government gave the family Rs 30 lakh as compensation, and promised jobs and clearance of encroachment from their land.  But not a single person has had to pay the price for what was done to their father.

How does it transpire that a man is set on fire, his statement is captured on video and is widely viewed on You Tube, the police arrive at the site, he survives for eight days before  he succumbs to his injuries, and yet a year later there is no chargesheet, and not a single arrest? Partly perhaps because the police were both accused and investigator?

Ram Murti Verma, the minister Singh named in his statement after he was set on fire, is still a minister in Akhilesh Yadav’s government.

A small town UP journalist, Jagendra Singh ran a Facebook page called Shahjahanpur Samachar,  which sought to expose the town’s criminal-politician-police nexus. One of the issues taken up was illegal sand mining. Another was illegal encroachments, for which he took on Ram Murti Verma, a Samajwadi Party MLA from Akbarpur, who is the Minister of State for Backward Classes Welfare. He also reported the plight of an anganwadi worker who alleged that she had been raped by Verma and his men. Then on June 1, Jagendra put up a Facebook post titled “Rinku Yadav’s MLC ticket being sabotaged by Ram Murti Verma”.

The same day, he was set on fire. The case got huge coverage. But what has its trajectory been?

The chronology is as follows.

On April 28 his son Rahul says that  an attack was carried out on him by the minister’s men which left him with a broken leg.

On June 1 Singh was set on fire.

In a statement before his death on June 8, Jagendra Singh accused Kotwali Inspector Sriprakash Rai of setting him on fire.

On June 9 an FIR was lodged by the son at PS Khutaar  citing sections 120 B, 302, 504, 506 of the IPC. It was FIR was filed against nine people including minister Verma and five police officers.

One June 10 a writ petition was filed in the High Court in Lucknow.

Even as that was being heard, on June 22 the Supreme Court issued notices to the Centre and Uttar Pradesh government on a petition seeking a CBI probe into Jagendra Singh’s death.

Both the Centre and theUP government were asked to reply to the notice within two weeks. The bench was hearing a plea filed by Delhi-based journalist Satish Jain, through senior lawyer Adish C Aggarwala and advocate Aditya Singh.

Also on June 22 chief minister Akhilesh Yadav showered the scribe's family with a string of sops —Rs 30 lakh as compensation, jobs for the two sons, and freeing of Bhoodan land that they owned from encroachment. It was reported that he also promised them permission for an arms license and a Samajwadi pension for the widow. He assured the family that those involved in the attack on Singh would be arrested within three days. On their part, the family agreed to drop the demand for a CBI inquiry and agreed to an investigation to be conducted by the local police under supervision of the DIG, Bareilly range.

However following investigations the UP government has claimed that the journalist had set himself on fire and the forensic report sought to establish that.

On July 9 the Press Council of India came up with its report on the incident, and the government action that had followed.

On July 23 Jagendra Singh’s son wrote to the lawyer handling the Supreme Court petition that he wished to withdraw from the case.

When interviewed in Mumbai last week he said, “What could we do, we are alone. My older brother is just a bit older than me. Our father had no brothers, its just us three children. We were scared. Our mother was very scared.”

Over the year since the incident not much has happened in either  the High Court or the Supreme Court. A writ petition was filed by journalist Mudit Mathur from Lucknow, and is pending before the Supreme Court, with lawyer Colin Gonsalves handling the case.

There have been legal twists and turns in this case. Initially the UP High Court was pursuing it, but then a PIL was filed in the Supreme Court asking that the investigation be transferred to the CBI.

A bench, headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu, issued notices to the Centre and Uttar Pradesh Government on the application filed by Mudit Mathur and sought replies from all parties within three weeks. The fresh plea has sought a probe into the case by a CBI team consisting of officers from outside Uttar Pradesh.

The applicant has also sought laying down guidelines for protection of journalists, impartial grievance redressal mechanism for scribes apprehending assaults and other acts of victimisation and comprehensive victim and witness protection programme.

In the main petition filed by Delhi-based journalist Satish Jain, the apex court had also sought response from the Union Home Ministry, the state government and the Press Council of India. 

The chief minister promised quick justice when it happened. But there has not been a single arrest to date.

And for all the legal action, there is no pronouncement yet from the courts.


Sevanti Ninan is a media commentator, author, and editor of



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