Journalist arrested for fabricating RTI reply

New Delhi: A journalist was arrested on Saturday for allegedly “fabricating” a response to his right to information (RTI) request to make the claim that the Ministry of Ayush has a policy not to hire Muslims, police said.

“He was arrested for fabricating an RTI reply,” a senior police officer told IANS.

Journalist Pushp Sharma was arrested under section 418 (Cheating), 467 (Forgery of valuable security), 469 (Forgery for purpose of harming reputation) and 153A (Promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc.) of the Indian Penal Code, the police officer said.

Sharma had claimed, in an article headlined “We don`t recruit Muslims: Modi government`s Ayush Ministry,” and published in March in Milli Gazette newspaper, that the ministry informed him that it is the “government policy” not to recruit Muslims.

“The ministry said a total of 711 Muslim yoga trainers had applied for the short-term assignment abroad but none was even called for an interview while 26 trainers (all Hindus) were sent abroad on this assignment,” Sharma wrote in the article in question.

The article was accompanied by a letter from the ministry transferring Sharma`s RTI request to a government yoga institute along with an `Annexure-I` that included the statement, “As per government policy, no Muslim candidate was invited, selected or sent abroad”.

This annexure was “non-existent” and “fictitious” as was “never issued by the ministry”, the government said in a statement on March 12.

Sharma`s RTI query that purportedly invited the `Annexure-I` was: How many Muslim candidates were invited, selected or sent abroad as yoga trainer/teacher during World Yoga Day 2015?

The government said in its statement that the ministry never replied to this query or any other, but simply transferred Sharma`s RTI request to two other public authorities.

“The contents regarding religion-based data in the so-called Annexure- I are not only fabricated but factually incorrect also. The response of the international cooperation section of the ministry clearly said that invitations were sent to yoga experts/enthusiasts without reference to their religions,” the government statement said.

Sharma had rejected the government statement as “misleading,” claiming the RTI response did indeed come from the ministry.

He was interrogated by the police for a few days after the article was published.

The police had then sent the RTI replies for forensic analysis.

Ayush is an acronym for `Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy`.