Central Information Commission, Yashovardhan Azad, has directed Public Information Officer (PIO) cum Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Vasant Vihar to supply information related to criminal complaint filed by Arvind Kejriwal’s Delhi government against the Editor of Zee News, Sudhir Choudhary for allegedly broadcasting a “doctored” video of the JNU students protest on February 9, 2016. The university students were participating in a protest demonstration on the anniversary of capital punishment meted out to the 2001 Indian Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, wherein alleged “anti India” slogans were raised, according to Zee News, and other new channels, which went on to broadcast what was later found to be a “doctored” video. The Information Commissioner has also ordered show cause notice against the PIO/SDM Vasant Vihar for stonewalling of the information.
A criminal complaint was filed against Zee News, News X, and India News with allegations of having knowingly and with malicious intent caused damage to JNU students and the university. Charges under Sections 465 (punishment for forgery) and 471 (using as genuine forged document or electronic record) of the IPC were pressed against the news channels and their respective editors.
The applicant, Sudhir Chaudhary, on May 12, 2016 filed an RTI application seeking following information:
- What is the process of filing a criminal complaint on behalf of Govt. of NCT of Delhi?
- Who holds the authority in granting permission to file complaint on behalf of NCT of Delhi, whether Hon’ble Lieutenant Governor or Hon’ble Chief Minister of NCT of Delhi?
- What process was followed in filing criminal complaint under section 190 and 200 of Code of Criminal Procedure tilted State (NCT of Delhi) Vs M/s. Zee News & Ors. Filed in the court of Shri Sumit Dass, Hon’ble CMM, Patiala House Courts, New Delhi which was listed on 25.04.2016?
- Who has granted the permission to Shri Sunil Dutt Sharma, working as SDM, Vasant Vihar Delhi to file complaint against news channels titled as State (NCT of Delhi) Vs Zee News & Ors. Filed in the court of Shri Sumit Dass, Hon’ble CMM, Patiala House Courts News Delhi and listed on 25.06.2016?
- Copy of entire file granting the permission to file the complaint titled as State (NCT of Delhi Vs Zee News & Ors.) filed in the court of Shri Sumit Dass, Hon’ble CMM, Patiala House Courts News Delhi and listed on 25.06.2016 etc.
However, his RTI application was tossed from one department to other, without providing any information to him. Aggrieved upon not receiving the information, the appellant approached Central Information Commission (CIC).
CIC while directing the disclosure of the complete information has noted: “The appellant has been approached against on the basis of the complaint filed by Delhi Govt. Thus, he had an equitable right to know as to on the basis of what incriminating material, fact finding enquiry and under whose directions, the SDM approached the court of Chief Metropolitan Magistrate against him and other similarly situated journalists. Freedom of press is hallmark of democracy. The present instance of denial of information has a direct bearing on the moral of the fourth pillar of democracy. If as per the respondents, the appellant and others were not doing fair reporting of news, the respondents ought to have readily shared the information. Stonewalling the information sought does not further the cause of transparency. Delay or denial in such cases invokes suspicion”.
Now the matter is listed on September 29, 2018 when the CIC will take call on whether the PIO/SDM be penalised for delay in providing the information.