oppn parties Gagging The Media: What is Tejasvi Surya Afraid Of?

News Snippets

  • SC says it will revisit its definition of 'Hindutva' in the light of growing hate speeches
  • Indigo reduces the flying ban on stand-up comic Kunal Kamra to three months after an inquiry committee finds that it was a Level 1 offense not meriting a 6-month ban
  • Akali Dal MP Naresh Gujral says Delhi Police did not act on his phone call asking them to help 16 people trapped in riot-hit areas
  • AAP councillor Tahir Hussain, booked for murder and arson, says he is being framed
  • New HC bench allows the Delhi Police plea that the situation is no conducive to the filing of FIRs and also allows the Centre to become a party to the case
  • Justice S Muralidhar of the Delhi High Court, who was part of the bench that pulled up the Delhi Police for not filing FIRs against BJP leaders for hate speeches, transferred to Punjab HC
  • Two Special Investigation Teams (SITs) of Crime Branch in Delhi Police have been formed under DCP Joy Tirkey and DCP Rajesh Deo. The teams will immediately take over the investigations of the cases related to northeast Delhi violence. Both the teams will be under the supervision of BK Singh, additional commissioner of police (Crime Branch)
  • Sporadic violence was reported from riot-hit areas in the capital as the intensity of the madness seems to have abated. The death toll has risen to 37
  • Special DG (Training) in CRPF, S N Shrivastava, appointed special commissioner (law & order) in Delhi Police in order to quell the violence. He is also expected to take over as chief of Delhi police once Amulya Patnaik's term ends on February 29
  • Curfew and shoot at sight orders reportedly in force in some areas, but Delhi Police HQ does not issue a notice for the same
  • The Central government has pressed paramilitary forces to control the riots in Delhi
  • Mobs in Delhi target journalists, check them for religious identity and snatch equipment
  • 13 people deal until now in one of the worst spells of violence in Delhi
  • Violence in Delhi shows no signs of abating with fresh areas in the north-eastern part of the capital coming under its grip
  • Delhi High Court says DGCA was wrong in approving the flying ban on stand-up comic Kunal Kamra by airlines other than Indigo for his alleged misbehavior with TV anchor Arnab Goswami aboard an Indigo flight
Delhi Police file a case for murder and arson against Aam Aadmi Party councillor Tahir Hussain. Hussain is believed to have played a role in the murder of IB staffer Ankit Sharma whose body was found in Jafrabad
oppn parties
Gagging The Media: What is Tejasvi Surya Afraid Of?

By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2019-04-03 21:34:14

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.
Why do trial courts ignore the stated position of the Supreme Court of India in certain cases? In fact, the question should be how can they do so? The apex court has, as recently as in 2017, clarified that there is no law in India that allows pre-broadcast or pre-publication regulation of content. Yet, lower courts, especially in Karnataka, routinely favour applicants with temporary ex parte injunctions against the media to prevent it from publishing anything that might be considered unfavourable to the applicant. It seems these courts are following their own idea about what comprises a restriction on free speech.

In the latest instance, a Karnataka court has granted Tejasvi Surya, the BJP candidate from Bangalore South Lok Sabha constituency, a temporary ex parte injunction against 49 print, television and digital media entities. The order restrains them from publishing any material that might be “defamatory” against Surya. The order remains in force till May 26 when the media houses will be heard. By that time the results of the elections will be declared and Surya’s purpose will be served. The young candidate from Bangalore is starting his life in electoral politics on the wrong foot and is likely to lose many admirers by choosing this course of action.

In issuing the order, the Karnataka judge cited the Karnataka High Court decision in the case AK Subbaiah vs BN Garudachar in 1986. But it defies logic that the judge limited himself to a high court order and chose to ignore several apex court orders – R Rajagopal vs State of TN (1994), Romesh Thapar vs State of Madras (1950) and Brij Bhushan and Anr. vs State of Delhi (1950), among others – that uphold freedom of speech and discourage ex parte injunction.

The injunction granted to Tejasvi Surya effectively means that no media house can publish or broadcast any material that can be deemed defamatory. This is pre-censorship or prior-restraint, which is the vilest form of gag. An ex parte injunction is defined as “a judicial proceeding, order, or injunction is said to be ex parte when it is taken or granted at the instance and for the benefit of one party only and without notice to or contestation by, any person adversely interested." But this cannot be done without reason. There has to be a prima facie case and strong reasons for granting such orders. Further, in this case, it is not the media that is adversely affected – it is the people of Bangalore South who will be choosing an MP without having the benefit of knowing things about him which the candidate is preventing them from publishing or broadcasting through this injunction order.

Instead of gagging the press, Surya should have presented his point of view if and when anything that he considered defamatory was published against him. He could have moved court against the ‘erring’ media house. That is the way it should be done in a democracy. Restraint orders just on a future assumption of guilt are against the rule of law. When these orders are against the media, they strike at the very foundation of the fourth pillar of democracy. The trend of granting such orders by lower courts in Karnataka is dangerous and the state high court and the Supreme Court must look into the matter and prevent the lower courts from issuing such orders at the drop of a hat.