The Andhra Pradesh Government has filed their reply before the Supreme Court on the matter of Shreya Broadcasting Pvt Ltd, which had moved the apex court, seeking quashing of an FIR registered against it in a sedition case in Andhra Pradesh.
The FIR against the TV channel was registered in connection with the sedition case lodged against rebel YSR Congress MP K Raghu Ramakrishna Raju (RRKR).
The state government told the top court of the country that MP Raghurama Krishnan Raju, former Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and TV channels, including TV5 and ABN, are involved in a deliberate conspiracy to incite violence between communities (Dalit and Christian) and sedition through repeatedly calling for violence against the government and making inflammatory speeches.
The excitement of disaffection towards the elected Government was also posited on a facet of personal abuse of the Chief Minister on social lines and then conflating the social composition of the political and professional executive of the government as injurious to the overall public good, said Standing Counsel Mahfooz A. Nazki, appearing for the state government.
Repeated calls to the people, addressing them as ‘napunsaks’ and calling upon them to revolt against the Government, and referring to the government as being in a ‘pathana-avastha,’ were clarion calls for violence, and sporadic incidents of protests by social groups and demonstrations on the basis of speeches also occurred in various parts of the state, he added.
It is submitted that RRKR was not making these speeches on his own as an individual, but in furtherance of a consistent design and in conspiracy with several persons, including the petitioners (Shreya Broadcasting Pvt Ltd).
It was alleged by the government that money was exchanged between RRKR and the petitioners in furtherance of the conspiracy. In one instance, an amount of one million Euros appears to have been transferred by the Chairman of TV5 to RRKR.
There was a meeting of minds and a continuously evolving scheme hatched at multiple instances. While in some instances, the petitioners’ organisations were given prior intimation of the inflammatory speeches that RRKR was going to deliver, there were several other circumstances, where deliberations took place between journalists from the Petitioner Organization and RRKR on the nature of questions that were to be put to RRKR and the manner in which they would be broadcast, the government replied.
It pointed out that ABN Andhra Jyothi, a TV channel, was running a programme named Rachabanda, (a euphemism for being a place for debate/discussion), wherein it enable free-wheeling address to the people. The material collected thus far during the course of investigation, indicated a carefully planned prior conspiracy to participate in the said discourse, clearly with a political agenda of a rival political party, to cause disaffection towards the government.
As per the WhatsApp chats between RRKR and Mr Naidu, the issues are taken up by RRKR only after the approval of Mr Naidu. There are references to calling up each other on those very topics, which figure in the insightful speeches of RRKR.
“It is undeniable that every individual, especially media houses who are trustees of the public, have an inalienable right to criticise the Government. However, such a right cannot extend to create a situation where the public order is disturbed, hatred between various communities and castes is encouraged and disaffection towards a democratically-elected government is promoted”, read the affidavit.
Reliance was made in the case of Raghubir Singh vs State of Bihar (1986), where the Supreme Court held that in order to constitute an offence of conspiracy and sedition, it was not necessary that the accused himself should author the seditious material or should have actually attempted hatred, contempt or disaffection.
Similarly in Amish Devgan vs Union of India, the top court held that while freedom of speech is sacrosanct, Article 14 [equality] and Article 21 [right to life/dignity] are guaranteed by the Constitution as well. These values cannot be sacrificed in the name of freedom of speech. Article 19(1)(a) needs to be balanced against Articles 14 and 21.
The State has justified sedition charges, as according to the preliminary enquiry report, the issue needs to be probed in depth and a fair investigation to be conducted by registering an FIR was recommended in the report.
The Supreme Court had granted bail to K Raghu Ramakrishna Raju on May 21 in a sedition case lodged in Andhra Pradesh. The arrest came after Raju filed a petition in the Special Court for CBI cases in Hyderabad, seeking cancellation of bail granted to Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy in a quid pro case.