The Supreme Court Monday restrained Andhra Pradesh police from taking any coercive action against two Telugu news channels -- TV5 and ABN Andhrajyothi in connection with a sedition case.
The two channels have been charged of sedition and various other offences for broadcasting controversial speeches of YSR Congress rebel MP K Raghu Rama Krishna Raju.
Raju was arrested by Guntur CID on May 14 for alleged sedition and promotion of communal hatred through his speeches. He was granted bail by the apex court in the same case on May 21.
While hearing the pleas filed by the local channels, a special bench headed by Justive D Y Cyhandrachud, said it will examine the interpretation of sedition law, particularly in the light of media rights and free speech.
The court also sought the response of the Andhra Pradesh government within four weeks with regards to the case.
Further, the bench, also comprising justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat, made it clear that there shall be no coercive action against the employees or the staffers of the news channels in connection with the case.
"We are of the view that provisions of 124A (sedition) and 153 (promoting enmity between classes) of the IPC require interpretation, particularly on the issue of the rights of press and free speech", the court said.
Both the media houses recently moved the top court seeking quashing of an FIR registered against them, with one house claiming the attempt is to “create a chilling effect” for news channels in the state so that they are wary of hosting any content which is critical of the government.
Shreya Broadcasting Pvt Ltd, which owns TV5 news channel with bureaus in Hyderabad, Vishakapatnam and Vijayawada, has alleged in its petition that the state “intends to silence” its critiques and the media by filing a “vague FIR” and abusing the process of law.
The channels have claimed that the FIR has been lodged against it for airing programmes involving Raju who has been critical of the state government led by his own party.
The channels have sought the apex court’s direction to restrain the authorities in Andhra Pradesh from taking any coercive action against the management and employees of the news channel in pursuance of the case lodged against them.
In its plea filed in the apex court through advocate Vipin Nair, Shreya Broadcasting Pvt Ltd has said that freedom of speech of media is of great importance and the FIR clearly intends to breach the same by “chilling the media houses into submission”.On May 21, in a relief to the MP granted him bail in a sedition case registered in Andhra Pradesh saying that considering the medical report received from Army hospital, the possibility of his “ill-treatment” in custody cannot be ruled out.
The FIR has been lodged for the alleged offences under sections 124A (sedition), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 505 (statements conducing public mischief) read with 120B (conspiracy) of Indian Penal Code.
The CID had also alleged that the MP particularly targeted two communities and tried to stoke hatred against them by trying to portray that the government has been favouring the two.
(With PTI inputs)