The Supreme Court on Monday said it was of the view that provisions of Sections 124A (promoting disaffection against State) and 153 (promoting enmity between groups) of the Indian Penal Code “require interpretation particularly on the right of press and free speech”.
The bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat was hearing a sedition case filed against Telugu news channels TV5 News and ABN Andra Jyoti. Issuing six-week notice in this regard, the bench also stayed any coercive action against the news channels by Andhra Pradesh Police.
The police had lodged an FIR against the channels under Sections 124A, 153A, 505 r/w 120B of the Indian Penal Code, stating that these channels conspired with Narsapuram MP Raghurama Krishnam Raju and provided “premeditated” and “organised” slots to Raju and gave him a platform to echo his hate speeches against the government and his own party leader, Chief Minister Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy. It has also been alleged that these TV news channels have telecast the hate speech on a daily basis, repeatedly.
It may be noted that Raju was given bail by the apex court in a sedition case two weeks ago on the condition, inter-alia, that he will not give TV interviews and speeches while on bail. The Telugu news channels were defended by Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra, who also pleaded for a stay on the investigation.
The plea in court says that the intention of the impugned FIR to criminalise the act of airing views of a sitting MP, who is a public figure, is clearly violative of the petitioner’s right to freedom of speech and expression, and also creates a chilling effect for media houses in the state.