"We saw news reports on bodies being thrown in the river, has a sedition case filed against TV channels for the reportage?," the Supreme Court on Monday asked sarcastically, taking note of cases being lodged against media persons during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Taking up a Suo Motu on ensuring supplies of medicine and drugs during the Covid-19 pandemic, a bench presided over by Justice D Y Chandrachud referred to a news report on dead bodies being thrown in river in Uttar Pradesh.
"A news report yesterday showed that bodies were being thrown in the river. I don't know if a sedition case has been filed against the news channel yet or not," Justice Chandrachud remarked.
Separately, the top court said it is time the penal provisions particularly related to sedition are defined and interpreted particularly with regard to their application on the media in view of freedom guaranteed to the press under the Constitution.
A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat protected two Telugu channels TV5 and ABN Andhrajyothi against any coercive action in the FIR lodged against them for telecasting interviews of rebel YSR Congress MP Raghu Rama Krishna Raju.
"We are of the view that provisions of 124 A and 153 of the IPC require interpretation particularly on the right of press," the bench said.
The channels led by senior advocate Shyam Divan contended that this was an unfortunate assault on freedom of the press and there were charges for sedition and creating enmity between groups under the IPC against them. They accused the Andhra Pradesh government of trying to silence the media and critics on the handling of Covid-19 situation.
The top court issued a notice to Andhra Pradesh on a petition seeking contempt action against the top state officers and stayed criminal proceedings in the FIR.
The court posted the matter for consideration after six weeks.
The FIR indicated that it was a suo moto case based on an inquiry report of the DIG, CID, Andhra Pradesh.