New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday quashed an Allahabad High Court which had restrained the media from reporting on troop movement in the country.
A Bench of Justices HL Dattu and CK Prasad quashed the HC verdict while hearing an appeal by the Press Council of India (PCI) against the Allahabad HC order.
On April 10, the High Court bench of justices Uma Nath Singh and Virendra Kumar Dixit had directed various Central and state government authorities "to ensure that there is no reporting / release of any news item by the print or electronic media, namely the movement of troops."
The directions were given to the Union Home Secretary, the Information and Broadcasting Secretary and the Principal Secretary (Home) of the Uttar Pradesh government.
The petition filed through PCI Chairman and former apex court judge Markandeya Katju`s office, had submitted that the order was in violation of the fundamental right under Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution, granted to the media and every citizen of the country.
The HC order had come on a PIL filed by a social activist relating to a report in The Indian Express on April 4, 2012. The report pertained to purported movements of some Army troops towards New Delhi.
Katju had earlier said, "With great respect to the High Court, I am of the opinion that its order is not correct. The media has a fundamental right under Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution to make such publication, as it did not endanger national security.”
Katju had also maintained that the Indian Army is not a colonial army, but the army of the Indian people who pay the taxes for the entire Defence Budget.
"Hence the people of India have a right to know about Army affairs, except where that may compromise national security. The media did an excellent job in exposing the Adarsh and Sukhna scams in which senior Army officers were involved, and they were well within their right under Article 19(1) (a) to do so,” the PCI chairman had said
Katju`s contention is that such reporting can be prohibited only near the border and during war times. "However, in my opinion there can be no general prohibition on reporting of all troop movements," he said.
The allegation in `The Indian Express` report was that there was some convention written or unwritten, that troop movements towards Delhi should not take place without notifying and getting consent of the government which was not done, he said.
"The further allegation was that this caused panic among the civil authorities, and the troop movement was abruptly stopped," he added.
The PCI chief said `The Indian Express` is not a fly-by-night newspaper, but a responsible one.
"They (Express) took 11 weeks to complete the investigation of the reported troop investigation before deciding to publish the report. Hence, I do not see how they can be faulted," he further added.
(With Agency inputs)