The Supreme Court has decided to examine a petition seeking the framing of guidelines outlining the broad regulatory paradigm within which the right to free speech of broadcasters and electronic media can be judicially regulated.
The plea filed by Pune residents Nilesh Navalakha and Nitin Memane has also sought the setting up of an independent Media Tribunal to hear and expeditiously adjudicate complaints against “media businesses” filed by viewers and citizens.
A Bench led by Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde has issued notices to the Centre, Press Council of India, News Broadcasters Federation, News Broadcasters Standards Authority and Press Trust of India Limited.
The petition wants the court to consider substantial questions of law, including whether the electronic media enjoys greater freedom than ordinary citizens and whether they could only be subject to self-regulation. It has questioned whether free speech entails misinformation, fake news, hate speech, propaganda, paid news, communal and derogatory reportage, incitement, etc.
It has asked whether regulation will amount to curtailment of the Press if done within the parameters specified under “reasonable restrictions” of Article 19(2) of the Constitution.
The plea said right to life and dignity envisaged the right of citizens to “free, fair and proportionate media reporting”.
“The principal issue before the court is to bring about a balance between the right to freedom of speech and expression of the media and the competing right to information of the citizenry, the right to reputation and dignity as well as the interest of preserving peace and harmony in the nation,” the petition said.