Media attention should focus on matters of public interest, such as corruption, nepotism, abuse or arbitrary exercise of power. The “line of control” should be that publication of comments or information should not invade into the privacy of an individual, unless it is outweighed by bona fide and genuine public interest, the Madras High Court has said.

A Vacation Bench of Justices S. Manikumar and T.S. Sivagnanam made the observation, dismissing a writ petition for a directive to the Gujarat Director-General of Police to act against the Prime Minister-designate, Narendra Modi, so that he would take back his wife, Jashodaben, and give her a dignified life.

The petitioner, G. Pravina, an advocate, said Mr. Modi, in his nomination for the Lok Sabha elections, had declared Jashodaben his wife, for the first time.

No legal right

Writing the order, Mr. Justice Manikumar said the right to information was a facet of freedom of speech and expression enshrined in the Constitution. The right of the Press to give information or facts or opinion should only be to promote the public interest and not to encroach upon the privacy of an individual. The public had no fundamental or legal right to get any information about, or intrude into the personal life of, another individual.

It’s not a document

The Bench said the material on record showed that the petition was based on newspaper and television reports and a letter addressed by the petitioner in April this year to Mr. Modi and a complaint to the DGP, Gujarat. Newspaper reports without any basis had no value at all. They were not one of the documents referred to in Section 78 (2) of the Evidence Act, by which an allegation could be proved.

The Bench said the averments were made in the affidavit as if the petitioner had personal knowledge of, and spoken to, Mrs. Jashodaben.

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