SC quashes HC's gag order on reporting troops movement

SC quashes HC's gag order on reporting troops movement

The Supreme Court today quashed the Allahabad High Court order which had prevented media from reporting on the controversy related to alleged Army units' movement towards Delhi on January 16 amid the then prevailing row over erstwhile Army Chief V K Singh's date of birth.

A bench of justices H L Dattu and C K Prasad allowed the plea of Press Council of India which had challenged the order saying that court cannot impose such a ban on media as it violates the freedom of speech.

The bench said the high court erred in passing such order as ban on media was not sought and the prayer was only to hold an inquiry into the controversial incident. "We are of the opinion that the high court should not have passed the order as the prayer before it was entirely different and it was inconsonance with the prayer made by the petitioner," the bench said.

The court also took into account its recent Constitution bench judgement which had said press can only be directed to postpone the reporting for a certain period. The Centre also said it was against the high court's order and it should be quashed.

The high court had directed various Central and state government authorities on April 10 "to ensure that there is no reporting/release of any news item by the print or electronic media on the movement of troops."

The high court's order was passed on a PIL which said a national daily and a news magazine had reported on movements of the Army units from Agra to Delhi when the Singh's age row controversy was at peak. The petitioner had said the reports were against national interest.

The PCI had approached the apex court saying 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.