SC Orders UP Govt. To Release Jailed Journalist

Why is it in News?

The SC on 11 June 2019 ordered release of the journalist Prashant Kanojia on bail who has been jailed by the UP government.

Relevance of the News: It highlights the supremacy of the constitutional Right to Liberty and the limits of state in using its powers of detention.

Cause of Arrest of the Journalist:

  • The journalist was picked up from his home on June 8 by police and taken to an undisclosed location allegedly for having shared on social media a video of a woman claiming she had sent a marriage proposal to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
  • The FIR, lodged "suomoto" by UP Police alleged that the journalist had made defamatory comments against Yogi Adityanath from his "twitter social media", with an attempt to malign the image of the Chief Minister.
  • The journalist had been booked for criminal defamation, Section 505 of IPC (statements conducting public mischief), Sections 66 and 67 (publication or transmission of obscene material in electronic form) of IT Act.

Grounds of Release by SC:

  • The journalist’s wife moved the top court filing a habeas corpus petition seeking release of her husband.
  • As per the SC, his Right to Liberty has been infringed and the liberty granted under the Constitution is sacrosanct.
  • The court called the action taken by the Uttar Pradesh government of detaining a person on remand for 13/14 days for posting material on social media, a case of deprivation of personal liberty and too excessive for the offence.
  • Additional Solicitor General (ASG) of UP contended that release of the journalist would be viewed by people as an endorsement of his social media posts. However, SC countered and clarified by saying that the release would be construed as an endorsement of his right to personal liberty not of his tweets.
  • Although SC accepted the fact that free speech is not absolute but also observed that free speech and criticism on social media cannot be choked by imprisonment.
  • The court said that the fundamental rights of free speech and personal liberty were “non-negotiable”.

Source : The Hindu