A PIL has been moved before the Supreme Court, seeking directions to prevent penal action against a journalist or a media house on basis of any publication, telecast or airing of views in India, until a sanction for the same is approved by either the Press Council of India or a judicial body nominated by the top court.
A Mumbai-based lawyer, Advocate Ghanshyam Upadhyay while primarily impleading the recent spate of FIRs against the Republic TV Chief Arnab Goswami and Zee Media head Sudhir Chaudhary, has stated in the plea that ‘nationalistic’ and ‘patriotic’ media must not be gagged and suppressed by anti-national elements.
“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 the general public becomes aware and able to form an opinion about the functioning of the respective Governments and officers working under it,” stated Upadhyay in his plea before the apex court.
“The petitioner seeks to lay down guidelines with regard to registration of FIR against journalists to ensure that the press/media, which is the fourth pillar of democracy, is not subjected to suppression and oppression and their voice is not silenced by entangling them in false, frivolous, vexatious and malicious prosecution under the garb of investigation, in the manner in which recently, FIRs have been registered against the Editor-In-Chief of the Respondent Nos. 3 (Republic TV) and 4 (Zee Media),” read the plea.
The petitioner further contended that the two TV channels (Republic TV and Zee Media) 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 destabilizing the country and thereby to establish their own theories and way of governance, which cannot be countenanced.
“When Zee News and Republic TV had posed ‘important’ questions and relevant news vis-à-vis the responsibility of Tablighi Jamaat for spreading Coronavirus and silence of Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s silence on the Palghar Mob Lynching, ‘certain disgruntled elements with a view to silence them’ have lodged FIRs against them in different states across the country” claimed the petitioner.
“These news channels, as a matter of fact, performed their duties as responsible media which did not violate any law for the time being in force. On the contrary, these two channels which are being targeted now by a certain section of people and political party by telecasting such programs performed their professional responsibility and duty toward the country and its people and responsibility of journalism” added the petition.
Subsequently, the petitioner sought the top court that it is extremely essential that guidelines are formulated by the Government of India as a mandatory sanction for registration of FIR against journalists, media houses, their executives in respect of offenses punishable under sections 295A, 153, 153A, 153 B, 298, 500, 504, 505(2), 506 (2) r.w. Section 120-B of I.P.C. and similar such other enactments, within a time-bound manner. This, the plea suggests may be formulated in consultation with all the stakeholders for those media organizations that have a certain number of readership/viewership.
“To effectively exercise the right of free speech and expression and for forming an opinion, it is necessary to have impartial the journalist in the country who can perform their duty without fear,” stated the petitioner Upadhyay while contending that the citizens are entitled to receive complete, uncut and truthful information, analysis, especially concerning issues affecting and impacting the sovereignty and integrity of India.