The Supreme Court Thursday refused to entertain a plea filed by ARG Outlier Media Private Limited, which owns the Republic Media network, challenging the validity of a colonial era law of 1922 and asked it to approach the Bombay High Court. A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde was hearing the plea which had challenged the validity of the Police (Incitement to Disaffection) Act, 1922.
An FIR was lodged in Maharashtra against some scribes of Republic TV under the provision of the 1922 Act for allegedly defaming the Mumbai Police and trying to cause "disaffection" among members of the police force. Republic TV had termed the lodging of FIR in the case as an "assault on media rights" and said it will fight every "strongarm tactic".
Senior advocate Siddharth Bhatnagar, appearing for ARG Outlier Media Private Limited, told the apex court on Thursday that the challenge is to the colonial era Act which is now being used to curb freedom of speech. The cause of action is in Maharashtra. Why don't you go to the high court, asked the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian. The top court allowed Bhatnagar to withdraw the plea with liberty to move the high court.
The FIR, registered at N M Joshi Marg Police Station in Mumbai, was filed under section 3(1) of the Police (Incitement to Disaffection) Act, 1922, along with section 500 (defamation) of the Indian Penal Code on a complaint by a police officer. The accused had aired a report about an alleged revolt' against Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh by senior police officers, the FIR has said, claiming that this amounted to incitement to disaffection among members of the police force and defamation of the force.
"In a brazen, blatant and shocking attack on press freedom by Mumbai Police, Republic Media Network has been issued notice to submit details of every transaction since inception and list every single journalist and employee. We will fight each and every strongarm tactic," the channel had said.