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Supreme Court Dismisses Republic TV's Plea To Quash FIR For Allegedly Trying To Cause Disaffection Among Police Personal As Withdrawn

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
17 Dec 2020 7:35 AM GMT
Supreme Court Dismisses Republic TVs Plea To Quash FIR For Allegedly Trying To Cause Disaffection Among Police Personal As Withdrawn
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The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to entertain a writ petition filed by ARG Outlier Media Ltd (which runs Republic TV channels) against a FIR registered by the Mumbai police against its editors & reporters for allegedly trying to cause "disaffection" among members of the police personnel. A Bench headed by CJI SA Bobde asked the Petitioners to approach the Bombay High Court as...

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The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to entertain a writ petition filed by ARG Outlier Media Ltd (which runs Republic TV channels) against a FIR registered by the Mumbai police against its editors & reporters for allegedly trying to cause "disaffection" among members of the police personnel.

A Bench headed by CJI SA Bobde asked the Petitioners to approach the Bombay High Court as the "entire cause of action has arisen in Maharashtra".

The petition has been dismissed as withdrawn with liberty to approach Bombay High Court.

Republic TV and its employees were booked by the Mumbai Police for allegedly defaming the service and trying to cause "disaffection" among members of the police personnel.

The FIR was registered at NK Joshimarg police station under section 3(1) of the Police (Incitement to Disaffection) Act, 1922, and under Section 500 (Defamation) of IPC, on a complaint filed by sub-inspector Shashikant Pawar of the Special Branch.

The channel had sought quashing of this FIR, stating that the channel was only reporting the views expressed by "certain right-minded members of the political dispensation in Maharashtra as well as within the police forces in Mumbai against the brazen manner in which Respondent No. 3 (Param Bir Singh) had conducted himself".

Senior Advocate Siddharth Bhatnagar, appearing fot ARG Outlier submitted that the Petitioner also challenges the "Police (Incitement to Disaffection) Act, 1922" as being unconstitutional and violative of Article 19(1)(a), 19(1)(g) and 21 of the Constitution.

"It was colonial act made to regulate nationalistic activities and now it is being used to curb fundamental rights," he said.

At this juncture, the CJI asked the Petitioner as to why it had not approached the High Court.

"The Bombay High Court has already upheld the constitutionality of the Act," Bhatnagar responded.

Unconvinced by this submission, the CJI said that the entire cause of action has arisen in Maharashtra and therefore the parties must first approach the Bombay High Court.

The petition was accordingly dismissed as withdrawn with liberty to approach the High Court.

In the impugned FIR, it was alleged that in a broadcast aired on the channel on 22 October, 2020, scathing allegations were levelled against Param Bir Singh, Commissioner of Mumbai Police, and he was accused of bringing disrepute to the public service by conducting himself in furtherance of his own personal agenda, against Arnab Goswami.

The Petitioner-company in its plea said,

"The Broadcast clearly refers to sources within the Mumbai police who had expressed their views in this regard. As part of their obligations as journalists, the Petitioners are duty bound to protect such sources and cannot be asked to compromise their identity in the garb of an investigation."

It added,

"It has been consistently held by the Supreme Court that the press is an important ingredient of the democracy and, therefore, freedom of press conferred by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India must be considered as a basic structure of the Constitution."

In the interim, the Petitioner had sought a stay on all further proceedings of this case, including investigation and a direction to the Respondents to not take any coercive action against the channel or its employees.

The channel had also challenged the Constitutional validity of Police (Incitement to Disaffection) Act 1922. It submitted that the 248th Interim Report of the Law Commission of India titled "Obsolete Laws: Warranting Immediate Repeal" dated September 2014 recommended a repeal of the said Act on the basis that,

"the Act is loosely worded and prone to misuse. Also. the Act does not describe what amounts to 'disaffection'. This law acts as a Significant curb on the freedom of speech..." and ".. the need for this law should be re-examined in light of its potential infringement of Articles 19(1)(a) and (b) of the Constitution".


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