[Toolkit Case] Dissemination Of Information In Sensationalized Manner Not Permitted: Delhi High Court

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The Toolkit case is gaining more and more momentum each day. The latest addition to the case is the plea filed by Disha with regard to the media attention the case is receiving. The reporting of media on the evidence of the case is claimed to be violative of her right to privacy as every bit of information right down to her WhatsApp chats have now become public information.

Facts

A petition was filed by Disha Ravi, an activist also the key accused in the infamous toolkit case. The matter of contention was the leaking of information by the Delhi police to media houses with regard to her toolkit case.

The petition filed alleged that the act of leaking information, especially that of her private WhatsApp chats with third parties which are not even verified “is a clear violation of the provisions of the Cable Sections the Cable Televisions Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 (CTN Act), the Programme Code and the Uplinking and Downlinking Guidelines.”

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The petition sought that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to restrain three news channels, Times Now, India Today and News18 and other channels that reported this news as it was “grossly violative of her right to a fair trial and presumption of innocence.” The tweets that the Delhi Police Department posted alleging her as the ‘key conspirator’ were also said to violative of her right to privacy and dignity both fundamentally guaranteed by the Indian Constitution under Article 21.

Arguments

The counsel for the petitioner Akhil Sibal mainly contended that the news channels stick to the principles laid down in the Programme Code.

The petitioner further alleged that the news channels had disseminated the information, but publishing commentary, and even purportedly making statements on her chats but supposing the questions she may have been asked and the answers that she may have given for the same.

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The main contention laid down by the defendants was that since the information was all available in the public sphere, the sharing of the same was not in violation of the right to privacy with regard to the landmark Puttaswamy judgement. The counsel for the defendants was Senior Advocates Kunal Tandon, Hrishikesh Baruah, ASG Sharma, and ASG SV Raju. appearing for Times Now, IndiaToday, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the Delhi Police respectively.

Court Order

The Court stated that

“Right to privacy, the sovereignty and integrity of the country and the freedom of speech need to be balanced.” The Court also noted that “While a journalist cannot be asked to reveal their source, the same has to be authentic. The Delhi Police claims that it has not leaked anything whereas the media claims to the contrary.”

While press briefings are held generally the media cannot disseminate the information in such a sensationalized manner.


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