The Delhi High Court on Monday directed Zee Media Corporation Limited to submit an affidavit disclosing the source of its news report on an alleged disclosure statement of a Jamia Millia Islamia student, Asif Iqbal Tanha, who was arrested in a case related to the February riots.
Justice Vibhu Bakhru questioned how Zee News got the documents, which even the accused did not have. “You [Zee News] take out documents from anybody, read it out and sensationalise the issue is not something that the court will countenance. These are documents which should not have been taken out and published,” Justice Bakhru said.
“The officers who have taken out [documents] are going to face vigilance inquiry. 19(1)(a) is not an unrivalled right in our country that has no limitations,” the judge remarked.
In India, press freedom is derived from Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, which guarantees to all its citizens the right to freedom of speech and expression.
The court also declined the plea of advocate Vijay Aggarwal, appearing for Zee News, who argued that pressing for disclosure of source would amount to interfering with the freedom of press.
The High Court’s direction came while hearing the plea of Mr. Tanha, who was aggrieved by various news reports appearing in electronic media that alleged that he had confessed to organising and inciting communal riots that occurred in north-east Delhi.
Mr. Tanha alleged that he was coerced by police officers to sign certain papers and make statements while in their custody. He contended that the alleged disclosure statements, which have become a subject matter of news reports, were not given voluntarily and are inadmissible as evidence in court.
Delhi Police had during the last hearing stated that the information about the disclosure statement of Mr. Tanha was not leaked by its officers. The Deputy Commissioner of Police (Special Cell) in an affidavit had stated that Delhi Police was also “aggrieved” by the news report in which the alleged confessional statement of Mr. Tanha was leaked. The DCP had said that a vigilance inquiry had been instituted into the matter.