8 March 2023 6:57 AM GMT
The Kerala High Court on Wednesday directed that the units of Malayalam news channel Asianet News should be granted effective police protection if protests against the channel turn violent. The channel is facing protests over allegations that in November 2022 it aired a staged interview in which a minor girl was made to say that she was a victim of drug abuse and sexual exploitation.The...
The Kerala High Court on Wednesday directed that the units of Malayalam news channel Asianet News should be granted effective police protection if protests against the channel turn violent. The channel is facing protests over allegations that in November 2022 it aired a staged interview in which a minor girl was made to say that she was a victim of drug abuse and sexual exploitation.
The channel had approached the High Court alleging that a group of nearly 30 activists of the Students Federation of India (SFI), the students wing of the ruling party, violently and forcefully trespassed into its office at Kochi and intimidated the staff on March 3, 2023.
The Single Judge Bench of Justice N. Nagaresh, on being informed by the Government Pleader that eight of the accused persons involved in the case have already been arrested and the investigation was underway, observed,
"Be that as it may, as the incident has attained political colours and there are protests against the petitioners unit, it is likely that there will be further protests against the petitioner which may turn violent. If that be the case, the respondents are bound to give effective protection to the four units of the petitioner at Kochi, Trivandrum, Calicut, and Kannur. In the circumstances, the writ petition is disposed of directing the respondents 1 -5 that if the petitioner informs apprehension of any violence from protestors, and seeks police assistance, police shall deploy sufficient police to maintain law and order, and keep off violence".
The Government Pleader informed the Court that the channel is facing investigation for a case under the POCSO Act in relation to the alleged fake interview of minor girl.
The Court during the hearing today asked if there had been any further threats after the incident on March 3, 2023. The counsel for the petitioner submitted that there were telephonic and social media threats subsequent to the incident. At this juncture, the Court orally observed, "You tell me whether there is any real threat, and in which branch. Every day, people complain against channels like Asianet, Manorama, Mathrubhumi, etc. that your news is not right. Did you file any complaint regarding the threats?"
The Court thereafter went on to orally note, "I am not casting any aspersions on activities of the police. If there is any likelihood of violence, you have to give protection in advance, you should not wait for the the things to happen, and then investigate".
The Court thus disposed the petition with the directions to the police to provide effective protection to the petitioner, in the event of violence.
In the writ petition, the channel said that in July 2022, the channel had published an interview with a victim of drug abuse, on the basis of reliable information about a POCSO charge sheet. The channel further said that a follow up story was also published in November 2022 using file shots without disclosing the identity of the victim. The channel said that the police registered an FIR against the channel on the basis of a complaint by ruling front MLA PV Anwar. The crime was registered against the executive editor of the news channel and three others, invoking Sections 120B, 465, and 34IPC read with Sections 21 and 19 of the POCSO Act. Based on the FIR, the State Police conducted a raid at the channel's Kozhikode office on March 5.
Advocates Nandagopal Nambiar, Victor George V.M., Preeja P. Vijayan, Smitha Ezhupunna, and Chitra Johnson appeared on behalf of the petitioner. Government Pleader EC Bineesh appeared on behalf of the respondents
Case Title: Asianet News v. The State Police Chief & Ors.
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Ker) 125