"A press reporter is expected to make the public aware of any illegal activities in an honest way", observed the Calcutta High Court on Thursday.
Justices Bibek Chaudhuri and Soumen Sen were hearing a plea for anticipatory bail of a reporter, in connection with a complaint for publishing a news article on an online official portal, stating that "amidst lockdown some illegal mining of sand had taken place", and "few persons of Birbhum District are transporting such sand illegally by truck from the riverbed of Ajay".
"It is alleged that few persons of the locality using JCB machines were lifting sand illegally from the river bed and transporting it to different parts of the State in overloaded trucks", recorded the division bench.
In granting anticipatory bail, the Court remarked that "at this stage, we are not concerned with the falsity or truth of what has been published", but considering the report published and the nature of the offence disclosed in the complaint, "we feel that there is hardly any necessity of the petitioner to be taken in custody for interrogation".
"In fact, a proper press reporting of any such incidents would assist the administration in taking appropriate measures against the offenders", asserted the bench.
The court proceeded to state that it is "equally expected" that if what has been stated in the said news report is found to be correct, for which the bench opined that a notice under Section 41A of Cr. P. C. should have been issued, "then the complainant is liable to be prosecuted".
"It is a wake up call for all of us in the aftermath of Amphan and pandemic Covid-19 to respect mother earth and preserve the ecology and environment lest we may face the rage of nature and soon be extinct", reflected the bench, adding that it thus mandates prevention of illegal mining, as such cases are frequently noticed.
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