Supreme Court rejects PIL demanding no FIRs against media unless sanctioned by PCI or judicial appointed body

THE Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to admit a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Mumbai-based lawyer Ghanshyam Upadhyay seeking a direction that no FIR should be registered against media unless sanctioned by either the Press Council of India (PCI) or a judicial body nominated by the apex court. To buttress his point, the petitioner made reference to the FIRs registered against the Editor-in-Chief of Republic TV and Zee Media Corporation Ltd, for allegedly inciting hate between two religious communities.

“It is relevant to mention that the Republic TV and Zee News during the spread of pandemic and consequent lockdown in the country telecast news on their respective TV channels and exposed Tablighi Jamaat/Maulana Saad responsible for spreading the deadly Covid-19 virus all over the country. Similarly, the Republic TV questioned the Congress President for maintaining complete silence after the brutal massacre of the two Hindu saints and their driver at Palghar on 16.4.2020”, the petitioner stated.

These news channels, according to the petitioner, performed their duties without violating any law. The petitioner argued that these two channels were being targeted for telecasting programmes and performing their professional responsibility. The petitioner is “extremely disturbed and anguished on account of the growing tendency of certain people in power or their supporters of resorting to suppress/ oppress and gag the media by initiating false and frivolous FIRs, merely because, media exposed anti-national activities of these people and their supporters, which are not liked by these people/their supporters”.

Petitioner added that as an alert citizen of the country wants to see an independent and fearless media as the fourth pillar of our democracy. It should not be subjected to harassment/oppression at the behest of anti-national elements. “It is the duty of the petitioner as a citizen of India and as an Advocate, to ensure that patriotic and nationalistic media like the Republic YV and Zee News are not suppressed and their voice is not gagged”, the petitioner said.

According to Upadhyay, his right to information enshrined under Article 19 1(A) is adversely affected due to the actions taken against the print and electronic media. To effectively exercise the right of free speech and expression and for forming opinion it is necessary to have an impartial journalist in the country who can perform their duty without fear. “If some guidelines, as prayed for are not laid down by the court, there is every possibility of disgruntled element resorting to silence/crush and suppress media by entangling them in false, frivolous and vexatious FIRs..”, the petitioner said.