Disha Ravi case: HC says media coverage shows ‘sensationalism, prejudice’

New Delhi, Feb 19 (IANS) The Delhi High Court on Friday issued a batch of directions on a petition filed by climate activist Disha Ravi seeking direction to the Delhi Police to not leak any investigation material in relation to ‘Toolkit’ case to the media, while noting that the coverage has been sensational and prejudicial.

The 21-year-old activist, in the petition, stated that she is being viscerally attacked by Delhi Police and media on the basis of leaked investigative matters and press briefings. The police have, however, rejected the contentions.

After hearing the matter at length, Justice Prathiba Singh asked the Delhi Police to strictly abide by the affidavit filed by them on Friday, and an Office Memorandum dated April 1, 2010, which is in operation. The judge said that the police can conduct press briefings in accordance with the law.

“Media shall ensure that telecasts are from verified and authentic sources. Editorial teams should ensure that such broadcast has verified content. Channel editors to ensure proper editorial control so that investigation is not hampered,” the court further directed.

The court said that the media plays a very important role in ensuring that there is no sensationalisation but the recent coverage shows there is definitely sensationalism and prejudicial reporting.

Further, the petitioner has been asked to ensure that people connected to her do not indulge in unnecessary or scandalising messages to ensure that the parties do not go on a maligning course during the investigation.

The judge also raised various issues of public importance — privacy, the dignity of individual concerned, her right to fair trial, sovereignty and integrity of the country, reasonable restrictions that can be imposed and free speech and right of the public to know.

During the course of the proceedings, Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju, appearing on the behalf of the Delhi Police, told the court that the allegations against police are false, adding no such information related to the case has been shared with the media.

“It is not officially done. Someone could have leaked it unofficially. One peon is also sitting there, so he could also be the police source. We do not intend to leak anything which is illegal. This is to malign the police,” he said.

The Additional Solicitor General further said that the leaked message is of February 3, while he was arrested 10 days later. “Hence, she could have sent it to people. She is using this to defame and vilify the police so that we do not do our job properly. This is a systemic attempt to put pressure on investigating agencies.”

Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma, representing the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, also raised questions on the maintainability of the petition filed by Disha Ravi.

Advocate Akhil Sibal, appearing for the petitioner, sought four reliefs — media houses must take down from their handles WhatsApp conversation, media be restrained from disseminating any particulars of the investigation, comply with the programme code and police be restrained from sharing any information with the media.

The climate activist was arrested from Bengaluru last week in connection with allegedly editing and sharing a ‘toolkit’ on social media related to the farmers’ protest.

The Delhi Police Special Cell procured five-day custody of the 21-year-old climate activist from the court to identify Pro-Khalistani group — Poetic Justice Foundation and its active members, and to recover the deleted WhatsApp Group.

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