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In a plea seeking directions that no FIRs be registered against journalists and media houses without prior sanction from the Press Council of India (PCI), the Supreme Court has asked the petitioner to make a representation before the Centre. The Court proceeded to dismiss the petition.
The Bench of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and MR Shah heard petitioner Ghanshyam Upadhyay via video conference today and while asking the petitioner to make a representation before the Centre, dismissed the plea.
Mumbai-based lawyer Upadhyay filed the plea primarily in light of the FIRs filed against Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami and Zee TV head Sudhir Chaudhary, for allegedly inciting hatred between religious communities.
Countering the filing of these FIRs, the petition invokes the fundamental right to freedom of speech, particularly of the press. The petition said that there is a need to “preserve and protect the fundamentals rights of the press, electronic and print media guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) Constitution of India due to which general public becomes aware and able to form opinion about the functioning of the respective Governments and officers working under it”.
The petitioner highlighted that the two channels have been crucial in pointing out the reason for the COVID-19 spread in India, and facts about the Palghar lynching case. It says,
The petition also highlighted how the two TV channels have been rendering invaluable services to the nation by “raising issues of great public importance, exposing anti-national element and their anti-national activities and sinister design of destabilising the country”.
Upadhyay claimed that the two television channels, which have been “targeted”, were performing their “professional responsibility” and “duty towards the people of the country.”
Expressing the apprehension of grave danger to journalists, the petition states that if the Court does not lay down guidelines, then there was “every possibility of disgruntled element resorting to silence/crush and suppress media by entangling them in false, frivolous and vexatious FIRs”.
The plea has seeks directions to the PCI to formulate a policy to "ascertain the truthfulness or otherwise of the claims" made by media houses who seek to avail of the guidelines.