Don’t cross ‘Line of control’, High Court cautions media

Says publication of information ‘should not invade privacy of individual’

Published - March 15, 2019 09:48 am IST - Bengaluru

Cautioning the media against crossing the “Lakshman rekha”, the Karnataka High Court reminded it that the “Line of control” should be that the publication of comments/information “should not invade into the privacy of an individual” particularly when the reasonable restriction is imposed on the media through specific laws relating to cases of matrimonial disputes and divorce, offences against children and women, and other laws.

“The Right of Press to furnish the information or facts or opinion should be only to foster public interest and not to encroach upon the privacy of an individual. When the public at large has no fundamental or legal right to get any information or intrude into the personal life of the other individual...the press or any other media cannot claim a better right to publish in newspaper, magazine or any other form of media, in exercise of freedom of speech and expression,” the court said.

Justice B. Veerappa made these observations while allowing a petition filed by a woman, a software engineer, in 2010 seeking that a Kannada TV channel be restricted from telecasting any information relating to her marital dispute, who had approached the channel, when the dispute was pending before a family court.

“What is an information to others according to a journalist, could be a personal and sensitive information to an individual in a litigation relating to a matrimonial dispute,” the court said while observing that “the boundary between freedom of press and privacy of individual is the ‘Lakshman rekha’ and if the media crosses the line of boundary, the invasion starts.”

Pointing out that the freedom of the press was for the dissemination of information of public interest and public affairs, and attention towards exposing corruption, nepotism, law breaking, abuse or arbitrary exercise of power, law and order, economy, health, science and technology etc., the court said that matters “involving marital relationships of the parties to a litigation should not be published or telecast, as it is prohibited under law”.

Referring to the provisions of the Indian Penal Code, the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, the Hindu Marriage Act, the Special Marriage Act, the Children Act, the court pointed out that these legislations had imposed restrictions by prohibiting publication of proceedings, and names and other details to maintain secrecy in respect of certain proceedings or inquiry to protect women and children and others from invasion into their right of privacy.

“Publication of the proceedings meant to be in-camera will affect the constitutional liberty guaranteed to the individual and it would be an invasion of his/her right of privacy,” the court said, while pointing out that the “Constitution of India does not guarantee absolute freedom or absolute protection to the media.”

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