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No Fetters Can Be Placed On Freedom Of Press By Registering FIR Against Reporter For Publishing News Obtained From Identifiable Source: J&K HC

Nupur Thapliyal
1 Sep 2021 5:25 AM GMT
No Fetters Can Be Placed On Freedom Of Press By Registering FIR Against Reporter For Publishing News Obtained From Identifiable Source: J&K HC
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The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has recently observed that no fetters can be placed on freedom of press by registering an FIR against a journalist for publishing a news item on the basis of an information obtained from him from an identifiable source."Needless to say that press is often referred to as the fourth pillar of democracy and freedom of the press is vital for the functioning of...

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has recently observed that no fetters can be placed on freedom of press by registering an FIR against a journalist for publishing a news item on the basis of an information obtained from him from an identifiable source.

"Needless to say that press is often referred to as the fourth pillar of democracy and freedom of the press is vital for the functioning of any democratic country like India. No fetters can be placed on the freedom of press by registering the FIR against a reporter, who was performing his professional duty by publishing a news item on the basis of information obtained by him from an identifiable source," Justice Rajnesh Oswal observed.

The observation came while the Court quashed an FIR registered against a journalist namely Asif Iqbal Naik registered under section. 500, 504 & 505 of RPC in the year 2018. 

According to Naik, it was stated that being associated with reputed media organizations including Early Times Newspaper, Jammu and Kashmir and Times Now English News Channel, he had broken many stories of national importance.

On April 19, 2018, his story was published in Early Times newspaper titled "Father of 5 brutally tortured by Kishtwar Police" highlighting that the victim was subjected to third degree torture by the police.

According to Naik, it was submitted that the Kishtwar police registered the FIR without conducting a preliminary enquiry and that he was only doing his professional duty in reporting what he witnessed during recording of statements given in the case.

It was therefore his case that the FIR was registered in order to harass him and to stop him from publishing any news item against the Police establishment, thereby gagging the press and electronic media amounting to infringement of their right of free speech and expression.

On the other hand, the respondents submitted that Naik tried to instigate the people of Kishtwar against the Police and thus created rage or confusion among the public.

It was also submitted that after his news item got published in the newspaper, other media organizations published the said news. It was further stated that Naik tried to instigate the people to the extent to commit offences like road blockade, vandalism, breakage of public property etc. in Kishtwar town.

Analyzing the facts of the case and appropriate legal provisions applicable in the matter, the Court observed:

"The mode and manner in which the impugned FIR has been lodged clearly reflects the mala fide on the part of respondents as the respondents could have given their version by similar mode but they chose unique method of silencing the petitioner and it is undoubtedly an attack on the freedom of press."
"This Court is of the considered opinion that the publication of the news item on the basis of statement made by the cousin and brother of Akhter Hussain, does not amount to offence under section 499 RPC as the petitioner has been performing his professional duty of reporting the matter."

Observing that Naik published a story on the basis of what was told to him, the Court said that prima facie there was nothing in the FIR showing that he desired to generate the consequences as claimed by the respondents and rather he performed his professional duty.

"Mere fact that FIR was lodged only against the journalist and not against the person, who has disclosed the said incident to the journalist prima facie, establishes malice on the part of the respondents," Court said while quashing the FIR against him.

Title: Asif Iqbal Naik v. State of J&K and others

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