SC notice to Union govt on plea by journalist against buddy system in Army

SC notice to Union govt on plea by journalist against buddy system in Army
The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Centre and others on a plea by a woman journalist, challenging use of buddy system in Indian Army.

A bench of Justice J Chelameswar and S Abdul Nazeer decided to seek the reply from Maharashtra government also on her petition challenging the criminal case lodged against her in view of death of a 'Sahayak' after her sting operation.

The petitioner also sought direction to issue guidelines to restrict the "abuse" of the Official Secrets Act.

Delhi-based journalist Poonam Agarwal, working with a news portal, had entered the camp at Nasik and carried out the sting operation on the alleged abuse of the "buddy" system in the army by videographing 33-year-old Roy Mathew, a Lance Naik from Kerala, who was found dead on March 2.

The court agreed with senior advocate Gopal Subromanaium, representing her that the matter required examination.

Nasik police lodged an FIR against Agarwal and retired army official Deep Chand, who allegedly helped the journalist to enter the camp, under IPC provisions and Sections 3 (spying) and 7 (interfering with officers of police or members of the armed forces of the Union) of the Official Secrets Act (OSA).

In a writ petition filed through advocate Prashant Kumar, the journalist and Deep Chand sought a court-monitored probe into the death of Mathew and compensation to the victim's family. They also sought probe into “misuse” of Sahayak/Buddy system.

They sought issuance of “suitable guidelines/directions giving a strict and controlling interpretation to the provisions of Official Secret Act, 1923 to prevent its abuse and bring them in line with the scheme of the Constitution, particularly Articles enshrined in Part III - Fundamental Rights of the Constitution of India”.

Their petition claimed the issue was related to "manipulation" of evidence, "hushing up" of criminal offences, the cause of "journalistic freedom" and the "right to freedom of speech and expression".

"The immediate provocation for invoking of the draconian provisions under the OSA against the petitioners is to scuttle and prevent a fair investigation into unnatural death of one of the jawans who figured in the broadcast clip aired on February 24, 2017 with all faces blurred,” the petitioners claimed.

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