India said allegations of judicial harassment of journalist Rana Ayyub are "baseless"

New Delhi: India today said allegations of judicial harassment of journalist Rana Ayyub are "baseless and unwarranted" after experts from the United Nations called for an investigation into what they called "relentless misogynistic and sectarian attacks online" on her.

"Allegations of so-called judicial harassment are baseless & unwarranted. India upholds the rule of law, but is equally clear that no one is above the law. We expect SRs to be objective & accurately informed. Advancing a misleading narrative only tarnishes @UNGeneva's reputation," read a tweet from the handle of India at UN, Geneva, responding to the UN tweet on the opinion of the experts, published on the website of the UN Human Rights. .

UN human rights experts Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression and Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, have said that Rana Ayyub continues to be the victim of intense attacks online by right wing groups.

The Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. The largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, they are part of Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms.

The experts, the UN said, "pointed to the attacks as being a result of her reporting on issues affecting minority Muslims in the country, her criticism of the Government for its handling of the pandemic and her comments on the recent ban on hijabs in schools and colleges in Karnataka".

Citing anonymous death and rape threats, the UN said, "The lack of condemnation and proper investigation by the government, coupled with the legal harassment it has itself inflicted on Ms Ayyub, has only served to falsely legitimise the attacks and attackers and further endangered her safety".

Ms Ayyub has been subjected to legal harassment by the Indian authorities in relation to her reporting for a number of years, the UN experts have said, citing the freezing of her bank account and other assets "in response to seemingly baseless allegations of money laundering and tax fraud, related to her crowd-funding campaigns to provide assistance to those affected by the pandemic".

The false allegations, they added, can be traced back to a far-right social media group.

The money laundering case against Ms Ayyub is based on a First Information Report, filed by the Uttar Pradesh police in response to a complaint by Vikas Sankrityayan - the founder of an NGO called "Hindu IT Cell" and a resident of Indirapuram in Ghaziabad.

According to a document attributed to "ED sources", the agency found the journalist had raised over ₹ 2.69 crore through an online crowdfunding platform called Ketto for charitable purposes between 2020 and 2021. In connection with this, on February 11, the agency froze ₹ 1.77 crore in her bank account.

Ms Ayyub has dismissed allegations, calling it a "smear campaign". In a statement, she said she is "confident that the allegations levelled against me will not withstand any fair and honest scrutiny".