Can’t Have Separate Avenue For Press To Set Aside FIRs, says Supreme Court

Supreme Court mentioned it’s going to grant safety to the petitioners and so they can method the excessive court docket.

New Delhi:

The Supreme Court at present mentioned it doesn’t need freedom of press to be muzzled or stifled nevertheless it can’t create a separate avenue for journalists to method it immediately for setting apart FIRs lodged towards them.

The prime court docket acknowledged this whereas listening to a plea filed by Foundation for Independent Journalism, which runs digital information portal The Wire, and its three journalists looking for that three FIRs lodged towards them in Uttar Pradesh be put aside.

A bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao requested the petitioners to method the Allahabad High Court and granted them safety from coercive steps for 2 months.

“You go to the high court and argue for quashing. We will protect you in the interim,” mentioned the bench, additionally comprising Justices B R Gavai and B V Nagarathna.

“We cannot create a separate avenue for journalists to directly come to this court under Article 32 for quashing of FIRs,” the bench noticed.

The prime court docket mentioned it understands the significance of the proper of free speech and “doesn’t want freedom of press to be muzzled”.

The prime court docket informed the counsel showing for the petitioners that it’s going to grant safety and so they can method the excessive court docket on the problem.

“Nitya Ramakrishnan, counsel appearing for the writ petitioners seeks permission to withdraw this writ petition to pursue other remedies available to the petitioners under law. No coercive steps shall be taken against the petitioners for a period of two months from today. Writ petition is, accordingly, dismissed as withdrawn,” the bench mentioned in its order.

The plea was filed by Foundation for Independent Journalism and three journalists — Seraj Ali, Mukul Singh Chauhan and Ismat Ara — who’ve sought quashing of three FIRs lodged towards them at Rampur, Ghaziabad and Barabanki in Uttar Pradesh in addition to the proceedings arising out of them.

The petition, filed by means of advocate Shadan Farasat, mentioned these FIRs have been filed solely on account of journalistic reporting of varied occasions and occurrences of public relevance.

It mentioned the FIR at Rampur was lodged in January this yr whereas the opposite two FIRs have been registered in June.

“No part of the matter published is even remotely an offence, although it may be unpalatable to the government or some people,” it mentioned, including that FIRs have been lodged towards the portal and its journalists in Uttar Pradesh.

The plea mentioned that the FIR lodged in Barabanki was in reference to a information story on the demolition of a mosque within the space in May 2021 by the police on the orders of the district administration.

“A news story is entitled to record and convey the aspirations, anguish, and perspective of the people, even if these are not in accord with the thinking of the State or its agents. This is precisely what the media in a democratic country is meant to do,” it mentioned.

The plea had additionally sought a route restraining UP Police from taking any coercive motion towards the petitioners in reference to these circumstances.

It had additionally urged the highest court docket to put down pointers to forestall the alleged misuse of Indian Penal Code provisions, together with sections 153-A (selling enmity between completely different teams on grounds of faith, race and so forth) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief), notably towards media homes and journalists exercising their constitutionally protected proper to free speech and expression whereas reporting.

The plea mentioned it’s not for the police to “sit in judgment” over the media for its experiences.

“The media is meant to ventilate the problems of ordinary people, the nature and effect of administrative policy, and differing world views,” it mentioned.

It alleged that related IPC provisions which cope with precise offences towards communal concord are presently being “subverted and misused” and used to “gag any media reportage” on incidents that will have a communal, non secular or political angle.

It mentioned the function of the media displays the citizen’s proper to know and guarantee accountability in governance and if this routine responsibility turns into simply weak to legal course of, democratic establishments will endure.

“The petitioners also pray for appropriate guidelines to prevent this manner of use of the criminal process, which has a chilling effect on media freedoms and the right of the people to be informed,” it mentioned.

The plea has additionally referred to the May 31 order of the highest court docket which had granted safety to 2 information channels towards which circumstances have been registered underneath the sedition legislation.

“We are of the view that the ambit and parameters of the provisions of sections 124A (sedition), 153A and 505 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 would require interpretation, particularly in the context of the right of the electronic and print media to communicate news, information and the rights, even those that may be critical of the prevailing regime in any part of the nation,” the highest court docket had mentioned in its May 31 order.

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