Responsible Governments are required to respect the freedom of the press at all times, remarked the bench though it refused to entertain the 'argument of 'Chilling effect' by Anuradha Bhasin, Executive Editor of the newspaper "Kashmir Times".
The bench headed by Justice NV Ramana observed that Journalists are to be accommodated in reporting and there is no justification for allowing a sword of Damocles to hang over the press indefinitely. The freedom of the press is a requirement in any democratic society for its effective functioning, the bench, also comprising of Justices R. Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai said.
It was contended by Anuradha Bhasin that she was not able to publish her newspaper from 06-08-2019 to 11-10-2019. The grievance was that the cumulative effect of various other restrictions, such as the imposition of Section 144, Cr.P.C. and restriction on internet and communication, has indirectly affected the freedom of the press in the valley.
The Court noted that the argument of 'Chilling Effect' is chiefly adopted for impugning an action of the State, which may be constitutional, but which imposes a great burden on the free speech. It said that the argument of chilling effect, if not tempered judicially, would result in a "self proclaiming instrument".
The Court observed that the argument that aforesaid restrictions were unconstitutional because it has a chilling effect on the freedom of press generally is to say virtually nothing at all or is saying something that is purely speculative, unless evidence is brought before the Court to enable it to give a clear finding, which has not been placed on record in the present case. The court noted that no evidence was put forth by the petitioner to establish that such other individuals were also restricted in publishing newspapers in the area.
The court did not adjudicate further on merits taking note of the fact that the news paper has now resumed publication. The question of law as to the appropriate standard for establishing causal link in a challenge based on chilling effect, was also left open.
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