Allow Freedom of Speech and Expression to Press at the Fullest: SC

The Supreme Court observed that even some instances of “wrong reporting” should not be held on to forever.

2 min read
File photo of the Supreme Court of India. 

The Supreme Court on Monday, 8 January, called for freedom of expression of journalists, and observed that even some instances of "wrong reporting" should not be “held on to forever”.

The three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra refused to revive a 2011 defamation case against senior journalists Rajdeep Sardesai and Raghav Bahl – founder and the then managing director of Network18 – reported Asian Age.

The bench which also included Justices AM Kanwilkar and DY Chandrachud said:

You must allow freedom of expression by journalists. There may be some wrong reporting. But don’t hold on to it forever.

The court dismissed an appeal filed by former Bihar MLA Rahmat Fatima Amanullah against the Patna High Court's order quashing criminal defamation initiated by her against Sardesai and Bahl.

She held them responsible for IBN-7’s airing of a news report regarding an alleged scam in the allotment of BIADA land and claimed that it made “scandalous and defamatory” remarks against her and her parents. Rahmat is the daughter of former Bihar minister Parveen Amanullah and former bureaucrat Afzal Amanullah.

According to Asian Age, the former MLA had alleged that IBN-7 did not exercise "care, caution and honesty in its reporting, but defamed and harmed the reputation" of her family. She alleged all this was done in order to improve the channel's TRPs, without any verification of facts.

CJI Misra also added that in a democracy one "must learn to tolerate".

There could be some error or enthusiasm in reporting an alleged scam. But we must allow freedom of speech and expression to press at the fullest. There may be some wrong reporting. For that they need not be hauled up for defamation. Defamation may be constitutionally valid. But an alleged incorrect news item about a scam does not amount to defamation.
CJI Dipak Misra, as reported by The Wire

The SC's observation comes in the light of an FIR filed by Unique Identification Authority of India against Chandigarh-based newspaper The Tribune and their journalist Rachna Khaira for exposing security flaws in the Aadhaar database.

Disclaimer: Raghav Bahl is the founder of Quintillion Media, of which The Quint is a part.

(With inputs from Asian Age, The Wire and The Tribune)

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