SC dismisses plea by Republic TV to quash FIR based on ‘colonial era law’
Remarking that all the cases against Republic TV arose in Maharashtra, the top court proceeded to dismiss the petition as withdrawn with liberty to approach the High Court
The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed as withdrawn a plea moved by Republic TV seeking to challenge the constitutional validity of the Police (Incitement of disaffection) act, 1922, the provisions of which have also been invoked against the channel in an FIR registered against them by the Mumbai Police last October.
Senior Advocate Siddharth Bhatnagar contended today that it was a colonial era law now being used to curb free speech, but Chief Justice of India SA Bobde observed that the matter can be taken to the High Court, Bar & Bench has reported.
Remarking that all the cases against Republic TV arose in Maharashtra, the top court proceeded to dismiss the petition as withdrawn with liberty to approach the High Court.
The petition had challenged Sections 3 and 5 of the 1922 Act, as violative of Articles 19(1)(a), 19 (1)(g) and Article 21 of the Constitution and against the principles of natural justice.
The petitioners also sought for the quashing of an FIR registered by Mumbai Police on October 23 in relation to a Republic TV broadcast on October 22. The said FIR invoked various provisions including defamation and offences under the 1922 Act and was filed against Republic TV as well as its editorial and newsroom-in-charge staff. By way of interim relief, the petitioners sought a stay on the FIR pending the disposal of the writ petition.
As per the petition, the October 22 broadcast in question concerned the existing state of affairs in the Mumbai Police.
The petitioners said that the broadcast referred to sources within Mumbai Police, who had expressed their views. As part of their obligations as journalists, the petitioners are duty bound to protect such sources and cannot be asked to compromise their identity in the garb of investigation, it was submitted.
In this backdrop, it was argued that the actions of the state of Maharashtra and the Mumbai Police to target the entire editorial staff and newsroom-in-charge (by way of the FIR) has a ‘chilling effect on the right to report, the freedom of speech and expression, the right to practice any profession and the right to liberty’.