The Andhra Pradesh government should not take any coercive steps against Telugu news channels TV5 and ABN Andhra Jyoti, the SC said
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday put on hold Andhra Pradesh government's action against two TV channels and issued a notice to the state government asserting, "It's time we define limits of sedition."
“The Andhra Pradesh government should not take any coercive steps against Telugu news channels TV5 and ABN Andhra Jyoti,” the Supreme Court said.
"The Andhra Pradesh government's act of filing sedition cases against the channels is muffling channels. It is time the court defined sedition," said Justice D.Y. Chandrachud.
The court also said, "We are of the view that provisions of 124A and 153 of the IPC (Indian Penal Code) require interpretation, particularly on the issue of rights of press and free speech."
Section 124 A deals with sedition and 153 with provocation for riots.
At a separate hearing on Covid and vaccination before a two-judge bench, when senior advocate and amicus curiae Meenakshi Arora raised the issue of dignified handling of bodies of victims of the deadly virus, "sedition" came up again, with Justice Chandrachud making a caustic remark on the repeated invoking of the sedition law by the Centre and state governments to curb news and views that are critical of them.
"Yesterday we saw pictures of a dead body being thrown into a river," Justice L. Nageswara Rao observed.
"Yes. There was a picture of a body being thrown into a river. I do not know whether a complaint of sedition (has been) filed against the news channel for showing it," Justice Chandrachud replied.
The exchange came hours before a three-judge bench, including the same two judges and Justice S. Ravindra Bhat, put on hold the Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy-led Andhra Pradesh government's action against the two TV channels. The issue in court pertains to an FIR on their reportage of the Covid-19 pandemic in the state.
The news channels challenged the FIR before the Supreme Court, arguing that the Andhra government had violated a recent court order that restrained governments from punishing citizens for flagging Covid-related grievances.
TV5, represented by senior advocate Shyam Divan and advocate Vipin Nair said, “The attempt of the FIR is to create a chilling effect for news channels in the State, so that every news channel is wary of hosting any content which is critical of the government. By filing a vague FIR and abusing the process of law, the State intends to silence its critics and the media.”
The apex court had earlier taken strong note of registration of criminal cases against those who sought help for Covid-19 related problems on social media and were critical of the government's handling of the pandemic.