False Statements in Articles Not an Offense under IPC Section 153A, Rules CJI Chandrachud


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Published on: 15 September 2023 at 22:13 IST

The Supreme Court of India, while handling a Writ Petition filed by the Editors Guild of India (EGI) seeking the dismissal of FIRs filed against four of its members in Manipur, clarified that making false statements in articles does not amount to an offense under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, presiding over the Bench alongside Justices J.B. Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, extended interim protection to the journalists and postponed proceedings to allow the original complainant, who had intervened in the case, to file a counter affidavit.

The case revolves around the Editors Guild of India’s publication of a fact-finding report concerning the Manipur Violence. The report criticized the internet ban in the state, alleged one-sided reporting by certain media outlets, and suggested that the state leadership had displayed partisan behavior during the conflict period. Subsequently, members of the Guild faced charges of attempting to incite clashes in the State.

Chief Justice Chandrachud, while addressing the original complainant’s concerns, questioned the relevance of invoking Section 153A and remarked, “Making a false statement in an article is not an offense under Section 153A; it may be incorrect. Incorrect information is reported across the country every day. Are you going to prosecute journalists under Section 153A?” He emphasized the importance of allowing journalists to present their viewpoints and questioned the complainant’s interpretation of the law, stating, “They are entitled to put forth their viewpoint… It’s a report; where does Section 153A come into play?

The complainant, represented by Senior Advocate S. Gurukrishna Kumar, indicated that if the EGI withdrew their report, they would refrain from pursuing their complaint. However, Chief Justice Chandrachud insisted on a comprehensive explanation for the alleged offenses, stating, “In a case like this, your complaint does it even make out a whisper of the ingredients of the offense.”

The Bench ordered a two-week period for the complainant to file a counter affidavit, with a stay on all further proceedings in the FIR until the next hearing. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Manipur government, proposed the possibility of transferring the case to the Delhi High Court, but the Bench signaled its intention to assess whether the FIRs should be quashed.

The case has garnered attention for its potential implications on freedom of speech and journalistic expression. The CJI underlined the importance of allowing journalists to express their opinions and counter-opinions, emphasizing that these actions are part of the democratic process.

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