Supreme Court: After two Telegu News channels, namely, TV5 and ABN, approached the Court aggrieved by a First Information Report registered against them for sedition under the provisions of Sections 124, 153A, 505 read with Section 120B of the Penal Code 1860, the 3-judge bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud, L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat, JJ has issued notice in the matter, returnable after 6 weeks and said,
“… the ambit and parameters of the provisions of Sections 124A, 153A and 505 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 would require interpretation, particularly in the context of the right of the electronic and print media to communicate news, information and the rights, even those that may be critical of the prevailing regime in any part of the nation.”
The FIR indicates that it is a “suo motu case” based on an enquiry report of the DIG, CID, AP, Mangalagiri, Guntur District dated 13 May 2021. The two channels had broadcasted certain programmes wherein Raghurama Krishnam Raju, Member of Parliament had allegedly expressed views critical of the State Government and the Chief Minister. While Raju, has been named as the first accused, TV5 and ABN have been named as the second and third accused. It is pertinent to note that Raghurama Krishnam Raju has been granted bail by the Supreme Court.
It was submitted before the Court that the allegations in the FIR do not establish any offences under the provisions which have been invoked against them and that,
“… the FIR constitutes an attempt to muzzle the electronic media and is an assault on the freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.”
It was also submitted that while dealing with the suo motu Covid-19 case, the Court, in its order dated 30 April 2021, had made categoric observations in regard to the need for restraint on the invocation of the coercive arm of the law against persons voicing comments critical to matters of governance which arise in the context of the Covid crisis.
While issuing notice, the Court directed that,
“Till the next date of listing, there shall be a stay on the respondents adopting any coercive proceedings in pursuance of FIR No 12 of 2021 dated 14 May 2021 against the two television channels which are the petitioners before the Court, namely, TV5 and ABN, as well as their personnel.”
It is also important to note that in another case, the Court has issued notice in a plea seeking declaration of Section 124-A IPC to as unconstitutional and void.
[Aamoda Broadcasting Company Private Limited v. State of Andhra Pradesh, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 407, order dated 31.05.2021]
For Petitioners: Mr. Sidharth Luthra, Sr. Adv. Ms. Prerna Singh, Adv. Mr. Guntur Pramod Kumar, AOR Mr. Anmol Kheta, Adv. Mr. Shezaan Hashmi, Adv. Mr. Shyam Divan, Sr. Adv. Mr. P.B Suresh, Adv. Mr. Vipin Nair, AOR Mr. Karthik Jayashankar, Adv. Mr. Sudipto Sircar, Adv. Mr. Agnish Aditya, Adv. Mr. Arindam Ghosh, Adv. Mr. Kutur Parikshit, Adv. Mr. Anshumaan Bahadur, Adv.