‘Police action against journalist abuse of process of law, malafide in intent’
Srinagar: The High Court of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh held that “no fetters can be placed on the freedom of press by registering an FIR against a reporter who was performing his professional duty.”
The court recorded that publishing a news item on the basis of information obtained by a reporter from an identifiable source cannot be grounds for the lodgement of an FIR.
It was pointed out by the court that registration of an FIR against a journalist is an attack on freedom of the press and abuse of power by police.
The court of Justice Rajnesh Oswal while quashing the FIR no.117/2018 dated 12 may, 2018 lodged by police against journalist Asif Iqbal Naik reporting for Jammu-based Early Times Newspaper, held that the mode and manner in which the FIR has been lodged clearly reflects the malafide intent on the part of respondents (Police) as they could have given out their version by similar mode.
“But they chose a unique method of silencing the petitioner and it is undoubtedly an attack on the freedom of press,” the judge said.
The petitioner through counsel Faheem Showkat Bhat had sought quashing of the FIR registered against him at Police station Kishtwar for a story headlined “Father of 5 brutally tortured by Kishtwar Police”.
Naik had reported on 18 April, 2018, that a 26-year-old Kishtwar man, the father of five children, was allegedly subjected to third-degree torture by Kishtwar police, which according to the respondent police station was for purposes of investigation.
The court said, “Prima facie there is nothing in the FIR that the petitioner desired to generate the consequences as claimed by the respondents and rather he has performed his professional duty.”
The court observed that the press is often referred to as the fourth pillar of democracy and freedom of the press is vital for the functioning of any democratic country like India.
As such, Justice Oswal held that the FIR impugned was nothing but an abuse of process of law.
“Mere fact that FIR was lodged only against the journalist and not against the person, who has disclosed the said incident to the journalist prima facie, establishes malice on the part of the respondents,” the court recorded.
Justice Oswal said, “In view of this, the FIR bearing No. 117/2018 registered by Police Station, Kishtwar for commission of offences under sections 500, 504 & 505 RPC, is quashed.”