Delhi Police has arrested journalist Pushp Sharma for allegedly fabricating an RTI reply to publish a news report claiming that the government was discriminating against Muslims and denying them jobs of yoga trainers in the Ayush Ministry.
"Sharma has been arrested under charges of cheating, forgery and promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, etc in connection with a case registered a Kotla Mubarakpur Police Station," Additional DCP (South) Nupur Prasad said today.
In March, the Delhi-based journalist was booked in the case which was registered days after his report 'We don't recruit Muslims: Modi govt's Ayush ministry' appeared in Milli Gazette, a fortnightly English language newspaper.
After registration of the FIR, police grilled Sharma, who is a resident of Dayanand Colony in southeast Delhi, for at least three consecutive days but he was arrested yesterday evening, police said, adding that he was produced at a city court today.
Zafarul-Islam Khan, chief editor of the Milli Gazette, said, "The Ayush Ministry FIR against the journalist and the Press Council of India's suo moto action are clear attempts to stifle the freedom of the press."
"While the Ayush Ministry was quick to file a complaint with the police, it failed to make any contact in any manner with the news magazine. Moreover, the PCI, instead of protecting journalists and media publications, seems to be taking the side of the government," he alleged.
A senior police officer said Sharma had earlier been arrested in 2009 on the charge of extorting government officials by threatening sting operations on them. There were also allegations that Sharma tried to extort police officers on one occasion.
The ministry had earlier condemned the "misreporting" which it claimed was aimed at causing a "chasm" between different sections of society and "promoting disharmony and mistrust with ulterior motives".
Sharma had claimed he filed an RTI with the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH) enquiring about the Muslim teachers and trainers recruited by it for foreign assignments during the World Yoga Day last year, to which the ministry responded writing that they don't recruit Muslims.