The Calcutta HC while allowing anticipatory bail plea of a news reporter from ETV, whose story on bribery amongst police department resulted in an FIR against him, made the observation that it is the fundamental right of a reporter to publish the news with full honestly and fearlessly, as guaranteed under fundamental rights by the Indian Constitution.
The Calcutta HC iterated that, “it is the fundamental right of a press reporter to publish any news which may not be palatable to the administration.”
ETV Bharat journalist Avishek Dutta published about the incident of witnessing police officers involving in bribery and rash and negligent driving, which resulted in the death of a person. This report earned him an FIR by the alleged police official. The complaint was registered on 2nd June 2020.
A Calcutta HC Bench consisting of Justice Soumen Sen and Justice Bibek Chaudhuri found prima facie the complaint to be driven by malafide intentions and ill-motivated and observed that police seemingly took cognizance of the journalist’s report that implicated one of its own personnel.
The bench iterated that, “It is the fundamental right of the press reporter to publish any news, which may not be palatable to the administration. It cannot be denied that incidents of the police taking bribe from vehicles are being frequently noticed and reported. We feel in order to stifle and muzzle the voice of the reporter this case has been registered against the petitioner.”
The court directed the police authorities to initiate inquiries regarding the journalist’s report of bribery by the police officials and the registration of the FIR against the petitioner. The court urged the concerned authorities to take appropriate action against the offenders.
On finding that the complaint is a frivolous one and was derogatory to the journalistic freedom of the news reporter, his plea for anticipatory bail was allowed by the court.
Subsequently, on 3rd August, 2020, the news journalist posted on his social media account about the case and highlighted the key aspects of the same. The post comprised of a photograph in the regional language along-with a caption.
This news has been written and submitted by Ms. Mansi Batra during her course of internship at B&B Associates LLP. Ms. Mansi is a third-year law student at the Fairfield Institute of Management and Technology, Kapashera, New Delhi.