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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 44, New Delhi, October 17, 2020

Unconditional Apology | Sumit Chakravartty and AK Biswas

Saturday 17 October 2020

The Mainstream weekly (publisher) and Mr A.K. Biswas, a retired IAS Officer and former Vice Chancellor, B.R. Ambedkar University, Muzaffarpur (Bihar) (author) (hereinafter collectively referred to as "we", "our", or "us") hereby fully retract an article ("Mainstream article") authored by Mr Biswas, which was published in the July 1, 2017 issue of Mainstream weekly (print and online) and reiterate that our previously published note ("Readers, Please Note", Mainstream, December 1-7, 2017, page 34) to the readers with respect to the Mainstream article stating categorically that the Mainstream article drew attention to a larger issue and was never intended to bring Mr Rajinder Singh, the then District Judge, Lucknow (since retired), to disrepute.

We acknowledge a person’s right to reputation and the right to be heard in accordance with the principles of natural justice. We also respect the importance of the principle of presumption of innocence and the fundamental right to receive a fair trial. Further, we also recognise the Norms of Journalistic Conduct framed by the Press Council of India and adhere to its Principles and Ethics.

Accordingly, we express our sincere and unconditional regret at the writing and publishing of contents related to the Retired District and Sessions Judge Rajendra Singh by erroneously relying on an article published by a prominent national newspaper on June 19, 2017. It has been brought to our notice that the article is not free of errors.

For instance, the said news report contained two averments that appear problematic and misconceived: first, that "IB probe establishes graft in judge’s POSCO posting"; and second, that "a probe by the Intelligence Bureau established corruption in Mishra’s posting to the sensitive POSCO court". As a matter of principle, we believe that contents of intelligence reports can never be taken to "establish" any person’s innocence or guilt nor should such reports form, in the absence of trial, the sole basis for arriving at any conclusions regarding any event or individual. We are reminded of the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s dictum in Dinesh Trivedi, MP and Ors. v. Union of India and Ors. (1997) 4 SCC 306 that "not all of the information collected and recorded in Intelligence reports is substantiated by hard evidence. Often on the basis of unverified suspicion, names are thrown by people to save their own skins. Intelligence Agents are not obliged to adhere to the principles of natural justice before they compile reports of possible suspects; quite frequently, individuals are shortlisted based purely on the investigators’ hunches and surmises or on account of the past background of the suspects. The disclosure of these reports would lead to a situation where public servants and elected representatives who, though entirely innocent, are compelled by virtue of their offices to associate with individuals whose culpability is beyond doubt, will also find themselves mired in suspicion."

Secondly, while the said news report appears to rely on the contents of a confidential report by Justice Bhosale and makes definitive references to such a report, it also uses in one place the expression "Justice Bhosale is believed to have observed in his confidential report". Upon careful re-reading, it is difficult to discern from the news report whether it is based on verified knowledge of the contents of the then Chief Justice’s confidential report or secondary sources. No claim can be discerned from the said news report that is based on access to a copy of any confidential report by Chief Justice Bhosale, or on independent verification of the existence or contents of any such report or on access or verification of any intelligence report on which the CJ’s confidential report may have relied as it appears to be suggested. Similarly, one cannot immediately discern the sources for factual averments relating to questioning of Mr Singh or about the withdrawal of his elevation or reasons for the same.

Reliance on the above mentioned article was a bona fide mistake on our part. We accept our mistake and reassure our readers and Mr Singh alike that we had no malicious intent to defame Mr Singh or to bring disrepute to him. We extend our unconditional apologies for this mistake.

Given the facts, we agree that it will not be proper to lend credence to any allegations against Mr Singh based solely on the fact that such insinuations were allegedly contained in an intelligence report and thereafter reported in a large daily newspaper.

To set the record straight, Mr Pranshu Agarwal, counsel of Sri Rajendra Singh, informs that "in fact there is no criminal proceeding or enquiry pending against Sri Rajendra Singh as on date and no criminal or judicial action was ever initiated against him in connection with the allegations contained in the news report dated June 19, 2017. In other words, no formal complaint, enquiry, proceeding, or prosecution was ever instituted before any court of law or authority where Mr Singh could have had any opportunity to meet any allegations made against him."

The Mainstream article was an opinion piece and there was no independent verification of the facts mentioned in the said news report dated June 10, 2017. We unconditionally and voluntarily withdraw and retract the Mainstream article in totality including the content relating to Mr Rajinder Singh.

At the same time, it needs for be mentioned that Mainstream weekly has never published any article imputing motives against any individual in order to bring her/him into disrepute on the basis of subjective understanding of any issue.

In addition, Mainstream weekly as a publisher would also like to offer Mr Singh the same space and prominence as the Mainstream article to publish his views and facts, if he so wishes.

Sumit Chakravartty,
Mainstream Weekly
• (publisher)

A.K. Biswas,
retired IAS Officer,
former Vice-Chancellor, B.R. Ambedkar University,
Muzaffarpur (Bihar)
• (author)

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