A Special Leave Petition (SLP) has been filed in the Supreme Court, challenging the media gag order passed by the Patna High Court in the case concerning sexual abuse of minor inmates of shelter homes in Muzaffarpur, Bihar.
Citing the possibility of the investigation being hampered by media reporting, the Patna High Court had ordered as follows last month,
“… till the investigation is completed, all the print and electronic media are hereby restrained from reporting anything with respect to the case, more particularly, with respect to the investigation already undertaken and/or which is likely to take place as it may seriously hamper the investigation of the case.”
The petitioner, Nivedita Jha has now challenged this blanket ban on media as unreasoned and patently erroneous, in the SLP filed through Advocate Fauzia Shakil.
It has been submitted thereby that the High Court had passed the non-speaking order, ignoring the fact that it amounts to a gross infraction of the fundamental right of the people to knowand the Constitutionally guaranteed freedom ofpress under Article 19.
The petitioner has asserted that there is nothing on record to support the apprehension that media reporting in the Muzzaffarpur shelter homes case would prejudice the investigation in any way. Further, neither were such apprehensions raised, nor a request for a media gag made by the investigative agencies in the case.
On the other hand, it is argued that the Patna High Court order disregards the role of responsible media reporting in advancing the case.
In this regard, the petition quotes the example of Arrah Juvenile home, in which case the minor inmates complained of the abuse suffered by them because ofthe media reporting in the Muzaffarpur shelter home case.
Inter alia, the petitioner has also referred to the 2012 Supreme Court case of Sahara v. SEBI to argue against unreasoned, blanket media gag orders.
In this backdrop, the petitioner has contended that the Patna High Court’s media gag amounted to “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”. Instead, it has been pointed out, the Court could have directed the media to act responsibly and laid down reasonable guidelines for reporting
On these grounds, the petition has prayed for the Supreme Court to stay the Patna High Court’s media gag order.