Telugu media outlet TV5 News has moved the Supreme Court seeking quashing of an First Information Report (FIR) in a sedition case in Andhra Pradesh. Shreya Broadcasting Pvt Ltd, which owns TV5, has contended in its plea that the state government "intends to silence" critics and the media by filing a "vague FIR" and abusing the process of law. "It is humbly submitted that the continuance of the FIR is likely to cause a chilling effect on the media in such crucial times of the pandemic, when truthful and fearless reporting is the need of the hour," said the plea.
In the plea, filed through advocate Vipin Nair, the media outlet claimed the freedom of speech of the media is of great importance and the FIR clearly intends to breach it. "It is submitted that the attempt of the FIR is to create a chilling effect for news channels in the state so that every news channel is wary of hosting any content which is critical of the government. By filing a vague FIR and abusing the process of law, the state intends to silence its critiques and the media, which is discharging its duty."
The FIR against the news channel is connected with the sedition case lodged against rebel YSRCP parliamentarian K Raghu Rama Krishna Raju, who was recently arrested by the Andhra Pradesh Police's Crime Investigation (CID) wing under the charges of sedition. The channel has claimed that the FIR was registered for airing programmes involving Raju, who has been critical of the state government. The CID which arrested Raju in the case, has also named two media houses including TV5 news channel and another one as accused.
"It is clear from the FIR that it intends to punish speech made against the Chief Minister. It is clear from the catena of judgments of the Supreme Court that sedition can, in no way, be applicable when the criticism is that of a person holding a post in the government," added the plea, seeking to quash the May 14 enquiry report which formed the basis of FIR.
The petitioner said it was constrained to move the top court in light of the fact that the main accused person Raju was reportedly arrested and has allegedly suffered custodial torture at the hands of the authorities. "The petitioners verily believe that if this court does not interject on an urgent basis, the petitioners shall be meted out the same treatment," said the plea.
The CID in its FIR reportedly alleged that the TV5 News channel is airing premeditated controversial opinions and views by giving fixed slots of air time to the arrested MP. "It is humbly submitted that not only is the naming of the petitioners' channel in the FIR absolutely unconstitutional and legally unsustainable, based on the Government of Andhra Pradesh's views and past actions, the petitioners apprehend that illegal and coercive actions may be taken against them."
The channel urged the top court to pass an ex-parte ad-interim order restraining the state government from taking any coercive action against its management and employees in pursuance of the FIR. It can be noted, while hearing a petition filed by the MP the apex court on Monday directed the Andhra government to shift the MP to Army hospital for examination. The SC has also directed the Telangana High Court Registrar to appoint a Judicial Officer to ensure implementation of its orders.