New Delhi: A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court Monday said that it was time the top court defined the limits of sedition.
“Everything cannot be seditious,” the bench, led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, remarked verbally, as it stopped the Andhra Pradesh Police from taking coercive action against two Telegu news channels — TV5 news and ABN Andhra Jyoti — in the FIRs registered against them for showing the press statements of rebel YSR Congress MP Raghu Rama Krshnam Raju.
The two channels approached the top court with a plea to initiate contempt against the Jagan Reddy government. Registration of sedition cases against the two media houses flout top court’s two orders — 30 April and 7 May — that directed states to stop prosecution and arrest of citizens who voice their grievances on social media amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the channels have contended before the court.
The FIR was registered on 14 May at the behest of the CID of Amravati police station. The top court has already granted bail to Raju, also named as an accused in the same FIR.
After perusing the petitions, the bench, also comprising justices L.N. Rao and S.R. Bhat, noted orally: “If TV channels say something (news), it cannot be called a sedition.” Justice Rao further opined: “This is a case of muzzling the media.”
“It is time we defined the limits of sedition,” Justice Chandrachud said.
The bench noted down the brief submissions advanced by the lawyers of two media houses in its order. “We are of the view that the provisions of section 124A (sedition) and 153A (promoting enmity between different groups) of the Indian Penal Code require interpretation, particularly on the issue of the rights of press and free speech,” the bench recorded in its order.
SC seeks Andhra govt’s reply
Minutes before the bench took up the two petitions, Justice Chandrachud made a sarcastic remark over the manner in which governments have reacted against media reports on Covid.
During the hearing of a suo motu cognisance case on Covid-19 management, the bench highlighted news reports showing a dead body being thrown into a river in Uttar Pradesh.
“I don’t know if a sedition case has been filed against the news channel yet,” the judge remarked. Justice Chandrachud later clarified the remark was made keeping the Telugu TV channels’ case in mind.
The bench also issued notice to the Andhra Pradesh government and ordered them to file their response to the petitions within four weeks. A direction was issued to the state police not to adopt any “coercive proceedings” till the next date of hearing.
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