The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Monday stayed a "blanket bar" imposed by the Karnal administration on circulation of news via social media platforms, qua the writ petitioner.
The single bench of Justice Sudip Ahluwalia ordered that the impugned order, so far as it pertains to the Petitioner- Samachar Express Broadcasting News Private Ltd,
"is modified to the extent that there shall be no bar to the petitioner for using the social media platform for disseminating information concerning any general developments."
Further the bench clarified that if any information or reference to any item relating to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is concerned, the same shall "necessarily have to be based on the information available from the Official Portal of the State/Central Government, as the case may be."
The interim relief was granted to the Petitioner after it pointed out that the administration had imposed an "absolute bar" on any kind of news, even if not related to COVID-19 Pandemic directly or indirectly.
The company had submitted that the blanket bar of user of social media platform for circulation of news, "ostensibly" to prevent circulating incorrect or undesirable news or information concerning the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic is violative of the citizens Fundamental Right 'to Freedom of Expression'.
It was argued that the test of reasonableness is "squarely missing" because if the purpose behind passing of the impugned order had been to restrict circulation of fake, incorrect or otherwise undesirable news pertaining to the Pandemic, the same could have been specified in the operative portion.
Based on these submissions, the bench has issued notices to the Respondents and has listed the matter for hearing on August 14.
Case Title: Samachar Express Broadcasting News Private Ltd & Anr. v. Union Of India & Ors.
Case No.: CWP No. 10289/2020
Quorum: Justice Sudip Ahluwalia
Appearance: Senior Advocate Akshay Bhan (for Petitioner); Advocate Amandeep S. Talwar (for Respondents)
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