Punjab & Haryana HC: Protecting Journalists Reporting is Vital for Fearless News Dissemination

punjab and haryana high court Law Insider

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Published on: January 10, 2024 at 13:00 IST

The Punjab and Haryana High Court underscored the critical role of Constitutional Courts in protecting journalists reporting truthfully, ensuring unobstructed news dissemination for an informed public, as emphasized by Justice Anoop Chitkara.

The Court addressed a petition filed by The Indian Express’s editor seeking to dismiss a Criminal Defamation case filed by an IPS Officer over an article alleging bribery and police protection recommendations.

Emphasizing the importance of safeguarding journalists who report truthfully, the Court highlighted the need for courts, particularly Constitutional Courts, to shield such journalists to enable fearless news publication without fear of repercussions.

Justice Anoop Chitkara’s bench emphasized that courts should be more vigilant in safeguarding the interests of such journalists.

The case revolved around a Criminal Defamation complaint by an IPS Officer against The Indian Express editor over an article alleging bribery and police protection recommendations. The Petitioner argued jurisdictional issues and refuted any defamation claims.

The Trial Court found prima facie evidence and issued summonses. The Petitioner contested the validity of the newspaper’s circulation area and highlighted prolonged proceedings that infringed fundamental rights.

The Court noted journalism’s role as a reflection of civilization and freedom of expression, quoting Avay Shukla’s perspectives on writing’s freedom and expression’s dependence on an uncensored environment.

The Court observed that The Indian Express’s reporting upheld ethical standards by including the complainant’s perspective, demonstrating responsible journalism by cross-checking and accurately reporting the complainant’s version.

It noted that the news, published with care and caution, fulfilled the Petitioner’s burden under Section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

Furthermore, the Court referenced Section 499 IPC and Section 7 of the Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867, underlining the presumption concerning the editor’s role in news publications.

Ultimately, the Court allowed the Petition, stating that neither The Indian Express nor its editor could be held responsible for subsequent news reports published by different parties.

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