SC Grants 2 Month Protection to 'The Wire' Journos Against UP Police FIRs

The apex court urged the journalists to move the High Court for quashing the FIRs against them.

2 min read
Image of India’s Supreme Court used for representational purposes.

"We are aware of fundamental rights and don't want freedom of press to be muzzled," The Supreme Court said while granting 2-month protection to three 'The Wire' reporters on Wednesday, 8 September with regards to the three FIRs filed by the Uttar Pradesh police.

The bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao, BR Gavai and BV Nagarathna also urged the journalists to approach the High Court for quashing the FIRs against them, as any judgement in the matter will open a "Pandora's Box", LiveLaw reported.

The order came while the apex court was hearing a plea filed by Foundation for Independent Journalism – owner of The Wire – and journalists Seraj Ali, Mukul Singh Chauhan and Ismat Ara.

What the FIRs Were About

The FIRs were against three reports by The Wire relating to the the death of a protesting farmer amid the Republic Day mayhem, the attack on an old Muslim man at Ghaziabad, and the demolition of a mosque at Barabanki.

They were lodged at the police stations of Rampur, Ghaziabad and Barabanki respectively, and stated that the reports were 'false', 'alarming' instigating communal animosity.

According to copy of the FIR, The Wire’s Founding Editor Siddharth Varadarajan and Ara were charged under Sections 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration) and 505(2) (statements conducing to public mischief).

The case against Seraj Ali and Mukul Singh Chauhan was filed under Sections 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot), 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups), 505 (1) (b), 120 B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (criminal act done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.

What the Plea Said

Filed through advocate Shadan Farasat, the plea said that the reports covered matters on record and in public domain.

The plea stated, "No part of the matter published is even remotely an offence, although it may be unpalatable to the government or some people. No unrest ever resulted or was likely to result on account of the concerned news reports. The fundamental assumption in these FIRs is that The Wire and its journalists have reported what they have with the intent to foment communal disharmony," LiveLaw quoted.

It added that "to posit reporting – especially the verbatim claims of citizens who are or say they are victims of crime – as tending to create disharmony or as an inherently criminal act is most pernicious, and this mode of criminalising expression deserves relief and remedial measures from this Hon'ble Court, else no journalist will be able to report fearlessly and the media will become caught in the criminal process for simply doing its job."

(With inputs from LiveLaw)

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