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Zee News In Hot Waters About Delhi Riots; HC Orders Disclosure

Delhi High Court on Monday ordered Zee News to disclose its source who leaked an accused ‘disclosure statement’.

Zee News is in hot waters with regards to an accused in the Delhi Riots. The Delhi High Court questioned Zee News about its apparent source in making public what was essentially a private document.

The HC also accused the channel for portraying something that has little to no evidence and using it to completely indict the person. It called out the channel saying that in no way is it a prosecuting agency to give such a judgement.

It is a misrepresentation of facts of a different level,” observed Justice Vibhu Bakhru.

The documents were of a private nature and were not supposed to be taken out and published. Hence the court asked the channel to file an affidavit and name its source of the alleged confession by the accused.

The channel requested the court to let them disclose the name of the journalist who took the statement but it will be in a sealed cover.

“You make (public) documents which are not supposed to be taken out and you want your name to be concealed,” the court told Advocate Vijay Aggarwal, who appeared for Zee News.

The petition was filed by student Asif Iqbal Tanha whose disclosure statement was allegedly leaked by the police to media.

A single judge bench heard the petition.

After it got confirmed that no police personnel were the source of a leak, Court turned its heads towards the channel who displayed it.

The Defence

The Zee News lawyer, Aggarwal argued that the journalist may not be asked to disclose his source. The journalists get information on the basis of an understanding with their sources. 

He referred to Section 15 (2) of the Press Council Act, which protects “any newspaper, news agency, editor or journalist” from disclosure of “the source of any news or information published by that newspaper or received or reported by that news agency, editor or journalist” during proceedings before the Press Council of India.

He also referred to the proposed provision of a 1983 law report.

But the court dismissed it is not something strictly in the statue book.

Aggarwal further aggravated the court by stating that it was about two individuals constitutional rights. He pointed out that the petitioner had confessed to not having any regard for the Indian Constitution.

The Court Response

“I think you are crossing a line here. You have no material whatsoever to make this allegation. You are not the prosecution agency. We have found that your conduct, prima facie, has been remiss… the police itself has instituted a vigilance enquiry (into) how you accessed the documents which should not have been leaked in the first place. Please refrain from making any allegations against the petitioner,” the court reprimanded.

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Saying that the documents “were not supposed to be taken out and published”, the court said Article 19 (1) (a) was not an “untrammelled right” that can expand and has no limitations. “There seems to be no doubt about it (publishing of the document). The officers that have taken (it) out… are going to face vigilance enquiry,” it said. “Prima facie, we think you have got no argument … but we will give it the consideration it deserves,” it said.

The court finally asked Aggarwal if the channel would be willing to acknowledge that it has been remiss and publish it

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