On Friday, the Delhi High Court heard the writ petition of 21-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi, accused of co-creating the nefarious ‘toolkit’ that was accidentally shared on social media by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. Disha had moved the court alleging a ‘one-sided, defamatory’ coverage by Times Now, India Today and CNN News 18.
While posting updates about the hearing, Press Trust of India alleged, “Toolkit case: HC asks media not to broadcast leaked investigation material as it could affect the probe.” Interestingly, the Delhi High Court did not issue any such direction. The plea came up for hearing before a Bench of Justice Pratibha Singh.
Live Law reported, “The Court observed that the channel editors should ensure that that proper editorial control is exercised while disseminating information to ensure the investigation is not hampered.” This observation by the Delhi High Court was misreported by PTI. The High Court did not ask the media to ‘not broadcast’ leaked investigative material but instead ensure editorial control on what is being posted and shared.
Delhi High Court issues directions to Delhi Police
The Delhi High Court’s directives were primarily aimed at the Delhi Police and not the media. The Court told the police to ‘not leak’ information about the vital details of the case, as per the Memorandum titled, ‘Advisory on Media Policy of Police’.
The Court said, “In a case that attracts the interest of the media, a specific time may be fixed every day when the designated officer would make an appropriate statement on the investigation. In the first 48 hours, there should be no unnecessary release of information except about the facts of the incident and that the investigation has been taken up.” While directing the police to refrain from making prejudiced/opinionated statements about the accused, the Court said that the privacy and human rights of individuals must be respected.
“The general tendency to give piecemeal information/clues, on a daily/regular basis, with regard to the progress/various lines of investigation, should be strongly discouraged so that the investigations are not compromised and the criminals/suspects do not take undue advantage of the information shared by the Police authorities about the likely course of the investigation,” the Court noted.
Delhi High Court passes an interim order on the petition
Senior Advocate Sibal requested the court to stop the dissemination of Disha Ravi’s ‘alleged’ WhatsApp conversations by media outlets. The court passed an interim order recording all the submissions made before it today. In the interim order, the court directed the Delhi police to conduct press briefings in accordance with the law. It directed media channels to ensure that the broadcast is based on verified sources and that proper editorial control should be exercised so that the investigation is not hampered.
The court further said that once the charge sheet is out, its coverage cannot be prohibited. The court directed the people connected with the petitioner not to indulge in ‘unnecessary/scandalising messages’. The court said that it would pass an order regarding material already put on record at a later stage. The next hearing of the matter posted in March. The court also directed petitioner Disha to ensure that there are no efforts from her to malign the Delhi Police or government authorities.