Plea for curbs on Covid news: Can’t impose if news is correct, says Delhi High Court3 min read

BY- VAIBHAV KESHARI

Recently public interest litigation was filled in Delhi high court seeking “restrictions” on the airing of news related to the Covid-19 crisis in the country, The PIL alleged that news channels are publishing “very negative” visuals and stories of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, which is causing a “sense of insecurity towards life” among people.

The PIL was filed by Lalit Valecha and stimulated through Advocates RK Gossain & SadafIliyas Khan, highlights that in wake of the second Covid wave, the news channels and mass media has persistent to air “negative images/visuals/stories in the most reckless manner”.

Delhi High Court ensured 'all hands on deck' to curb COVID-19 spread in  2020- The New Indian Express

“It is true that TV news channels are broadcasting news bulletins 24×7 and mostly these news bulletins are telecast repeatedly. Even though the same negative visuals/stories are shown in the recurrence programs, but it gives an impression as if novel/fresh incidents are happening every now and then In the present-day situation, in view of the fact that people are restrained indoors, people do watch the news channel time and again.” The plea states.

Petitioner states that since these reports are seen by all types of audiences such as children, sick, old, critically sick person hence much caution must adopt. Petitioner further said, “That balancing the freedom of the press with putting in place checks and balances that seek to instill a sense of responsibility and to prevent abuse of this freedom, without the “chilling effect” that would impair journalistic freedoms a big challenge. It is the duty of media to keep the citizenry informed of the state of governance with adequate and appropriate checks and safeguards, specific to the electronic media that can outline the path that would imitate to the highest criteria of rectitude and guide the media in the discharge of its solemn constitutional duty.”

The petitioner also stressed the fact that these news channels have a great influence on society, therefore, it’s their responsibility in the matter of adhering to high standards, obligations, and morals of reporting, journalism. Although under Article 19[3] people have the right to “freedom of speech and expression” but they are not absolute, there are some reasonable restrictions. So petitioner felt that they are violating article 19 of the Indian constitution.

Prayers by petitioner:

Petitioner wants that court must issue a writ, order, or direction in the nature of Mandamus, thus, directing the Union of India to formulate rules in a time-bound manner for broadcasting of news articles of delicate nature such as journalism of mass scale deaths, sufferings by the people, etc. by the broadcaster’s/TV channels and restraining the broadcaster’s/TV channels from spreading negativity, sense of insecurity towards life, alarm, injury, harm, suffering, damage, etc.

To issue any other suitable writ, order, or direction which this Hon’ble Court believes impartial and proper, in the facts and conditions of the existing matter.

Judgment:

Bench of judges: Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jasmeet Singh
the divisional bench on Monday dismissed the  PIL filed by Lalit Valecha after observing that informing the public about the number of covid deaths is not negative news. They said that there can be no curbs on the media as long as the information they are putting out is correct. It further stated that all kinds of news are broadcast by media. “Each time when news about death is circulated, it cannot be said that it is negative news. It is an erroneous belief in the mind of the petitioner,” it said. The bench observed that there is no reason to entertain the plea and therefore they dismissed the plea.

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