October 10, 2020 2:24:56 am
The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has quashed an FIR against a journalist for his news report, observing that “reporting of events which a journalist has bona fide reason to believe to be true, can never be an offence”, and that taking a contrary view “would be violative of the right of freedom of speech and expression” guaranteed by the Constitution.
The news report in question, ‘Stone pelters in J&K now target tourists, four women injured’, was published on April 3, 2018 by The Times of India and was written by journalist Salim Pandith. Terming the news fake, travel agents filed a police complaint against Pandith, saying the report would affect tourism in Kashmir.
Based on the complaint by the travel agents, J&K Police registered a complaint against Pandit under Section 505 of the Ranbir Penal Code (any statement, rumour or report with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public, whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State).
Justice Sanjay Dhar of the J&K High Court Wednesday said “fair and frank” reporting of the events by the media can’t be curbed. “The question that arises is whether a fearless and frank reporting of events/incidents in a newspaper would merely for the reason that the persons engaged in a particular business feel that their business would get adversely impacted by such news reports, attract Section 505 of Ranbir Panel Code. The answer to this question has to be in negative because reporting of events which a journalist has bona fide reason to believe to be true, can never be an offence…Taking a contrary view would be violative of the right of freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India.”
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