The Supreme Court on Monday issued orders barring Andhra Pradesh police from taking a coercive action against two Telugu news channels, namely TV5 and ABN Andhrajyothy, that have been charged with sedition for broadcasting statements made by rebel MP of Andhra Pradesh’s ruling YSR Congress, Kanumuri Raghurama Krishnam Raju.
The bench comprising Justices DY Chadrachud, L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra said that prima facie, the charges against the two media houses were an “attempt to muzzle free speech”.
Justice DY Chandrachud observed that it is time to define the ‘limits of sedition.’
“We are of the view that the ambit and parameters of the provisions of Sections 124A, 153A and 505 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 would require interpretation, particularly in the context of the right of the electronic and print media to communicate news, information and the rights, even those that may be critical of the prevailing regime in any part of the nation,” the court said.
The Telugu TV channels were charged an FIR with sedition on May 14th allegedly for airing the comments of Raju that had been critical of his government and the Chief Minister.
FIR was registered under Sections 124, 153A, 505, read with Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code 1860. The FIR indicates that it is a “suo motu case” based on an enquiry report of the DIG, CID, AP, Mangalagiri, Guntur District, dated 13 May 2021.
Krishnam Raju has been named as the first accused, TV5 and ABN have been named as the second and third accused and were accused of conspiring with Krishnam Raju by providing him predetermined slots with “premeditated controversial opinions.
The news channels challenged the FIR before the Supreme Court, arguing that the Andhra government had violated a recent court order restraining governments from punishing citizens for flagging Covid-related grievances.
Speaking to Medianews4u, Vijay Narayana, Editor, TV5, said that the government’s action is a breach of press freedom.