The founder of the alleged fact-checking website, AltNews took to Twitter today to mislead people about BJP’s 2014 poll promise of sending guilty MPs and MLAs to jail within a year of coming to power. Pratik Sinha, the founder of AltNews was responding to Abhijit Mazumdar, the Editor-in-Chief of MyNation. Majumdar had tweeted a news report that spoke of PM Modi’s promise of sending those who looted India to jail.
— Abhijit Majumder (@abhijitmajumder) May 10, 2019
Responding to Majumdar, Sinha attached a screenshot of BJP’s 2014 poll promise of sending guilty MPs and MLAs to jail within a year of coming to power with a sarcastic remark. He said, “Yes, totally believable since in 2014 he said this”, indicating, that since PM Modi had not delivered on his 2014 poll promise, he wouldn’t deliver on this one either.
— Pratik Sinha (@free_thinker) May 10, 2019
However, Pratik Sinha has been economical with the facts, which is not surprising, but unfortunate considering he likes to call himself a fact-checker. Firstly, any promise of ‘sending some to jail’ has to be about the legal process because executive can’t send someone to jail as it would be undemocratic. Hence, any such ‘promise’ has to be seen in the juxtaposition of how the judiciary functions and behaves. The promise by a PM Modi would have to be seen in the context of how he and his government tried to ensure a speedy judicial process.
In that context, the truth is that the Modi government had presented a proposal to the Supreme Court that cases against sitting MPs and MLAs should be heard in fast-track courts and disposed of quickly, however, it was the Supreme Court that had rejected the proposal.
SC rejected Modi govt’s proposal in 2014. But govt persisted. In 2017, SC approved setting up of fast track courts for cases against MPs & MLAs. By June 2018, 791 cases were transferred to fast track courts. But Fact Faker @free_thinker won’t tell you this. pic.twitter.com/p7f6Csfumx
— Chowkidar Spaminder Bharti (@attomeybharti) May 11, 2019
On July 24th 2014, the Modi government had asked Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to draw up a roadmap on how these can be fast-tracked after expressing concern over the increasing criminality in the political space. The law panel had said that for charges framed against sitting MPs or MLAs, the trial must be expedited and concluded within a one-year period. “If trial is not concluded within one year then (either) the MP/MLA may be disqualified at the expiry of the one-year period or the MP/MLAs’ right to vote in the House as a member, remuneration shall be suspended at the expiry of the one-year period,” the report had said.
On August 1st 2014, the Supreme Court had told the centre that cases against MPs and MLAs cannot be fast-tracked because MPs and MLAs are not special. The court had said that the government should come up with a system to expedite the entire justice system and not just cases against legislators.
The Modi government, however, persisted on its promise. In 2017, the Centre against submitted an affidavit in court with a proposal to set up 12 fast-track courts to hear cases against MPs and MLAs to try a total of 1,581 criminal cases pending against legislators across the country.
In an affidavit, the centre said that Rs 65 lakh would be required for setting up each of these courts, bringing the total up to Rs7.8 crore. These would be set up for a period of one year to fast track disposal of cases against legislators.
“The scheme envisages setting up for 12 special courts for a period of one year to dispose of cases against political persons at an expenditure of Rs7.8 crore. On 8 December, the Department of expenditure, ministry of finance has given in-principle approval for the same,” said the 14-page affidavit.
The Supreme Court had thereafter given the central government permission to set up 12 fast-track courts and ordered that the courts be functional by March 2018. The Centre then asked states and union territories to set up 12 fast-track courts that would hear 3,816 criminal cases against 1,765 MPs and MLAs.
In June 2018, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad briefed the media that 12 fast-track courts had been set up in 11 states and union territories. He told the media that 791 criminal cases against MPs and MLAs had already been transferred to these special courts.
By this time, the government has set up a total of 727 fast-track courts which included courts to expedite trials of cases against women, SC/STs, children and senior citizens. The number of fast-track courts had increased from 281 from 2015 to 727 in 2018. The fast-track courts for MPs/MLAs are in Delhi, Andhra, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, UP, Bihar and West Bengal.
In fact, by September 2018, the Central government told the Supreme Court that in the 12 fast-track courts, 1,233 cases had been transferred, 136 disposed of and 1,097 cases were pending in these special courts.
It is thus evident that Pratik Sinha, the founder of AltNews and self-proclaimed fact-checker misled people by not providing full details of the entire journey of how fast-track courts were set up. He insinuated that Prime Minister Modi had not kept his promise to send guilty MLAs and MPs to jail, however, the delay in the setting up of fast-track courts was because of the judicial process and not because the Modi government simply did not want to deliver on its promise. Only weeks after coming to power, the Modi government had worked on a proposal for the setting up of fast-track courts, in accordance with its poll promise before coming to power in 2014. In fact, had the Supreme Court given the central government permission to set up fast-track courts to hear cases against MPs and MLAs in July 2014 itself, the Modi government had no reason to not fulfil its poll promise of sending the guilty to jail within a year of coming to power.
This is not the first time that AltNews founders have misrepresented facts and lied.
AltNews sought to ‘fact-check’ a ‘clipped’ video of journalist Barkha Dutt but interestingly, left out the quotes where she was actually giving a context to the genocide of Kashmiri Pandits in the valley. Altnews ‘fact-checked’ a retired major from the Army, but willy-nilly refused to respond to his side of the story. Altnews fact-checked a fake image in circulation without bothering to name the ones using that fake image. The reason was rather simple. The ones sharing that image were their ideological comrades which included Swati Chaturvedi, a source BBC has relied upon. One of their co-founders happily furthers genocidal accounts wishing for death upon anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the leftist cult. The co-founder of Altnews spread lies about ease of doing business rankings. He shared a fake image of BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa right before the Karnataka elections.
The website did some strange mumbo-jumbo analysis to debunk the news of several youths raising anti-India slogans. The Bihar DGP debunked Altnews claims. They are funded by a fake news purveyor, Arundhati Roy (BBC might be reluctant to admit that Roy is a fake news disseminator, but they can read up here). The co-founder doesn’t bother to fact-check even when fake news hits him in the face as long as it conforms to his political bias and the co-founder of Altnews has retweeted fake images in the past.