Courts cannot formulate guidelines for regulation of Media: Kerala High Court

We have no hesitation to hold that public interest litigation to frame guidelines to restrict the media on the basis of the allegations made in the writ petition cannot be entertained and no guidelines can be framed taking into account the contentions put forth by the petitioner held by Hon’ble Chief Justice S. MANIKUMAR and Hon’ble Justice SHAJI P. CHALY in Halvi .K.S. versus State of Kerala [WP (C) No. 16349 of 2020 (S)].

 The facts relating to the case is the petitioner seeking a framework of guidelines for the regulation of print and electronic media. The Hon’ble Court observed that it is not within the realm of the court to set a mechanism that verifies what is broadcasted and published. The Hon’ble Court referred to the apex court’s ruling in Sahara India Real Estate Corporation V. SEBI, where the bench had refrained from executing any guideline for a prior curb to media reportage.

It was further observed by the Hon’ble Court that a straight jacket formula to curb reportage on a prior basis cannot be set, however, the court can exercise the same based on the facts of each and every case and that the judges should not decide a case entirely on the basis of the media report.

It was observed by the Hon’ble Court that analysing the principles of Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution, and the significant multifarious roles played by it, we are of the view that a constitutional court would not be able to comprehend various situations and form a guideline so as to restrict the media from enjoying its freedom conferred under Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution of India. Moreover, making a law is the absolute domain of the parliament and the State legislatures in terms of the provisions of the Constitution of India, and the framers of the constitution intended and envisioned a clear demarcation of exercise power by the Legislature, executive and the judiciary, which is also largely dependent on the successive policies formulated by the Government for its functioning.

It is also stated by the Hon’ble Lordship, invention of the press was a turning point in the debate about freedom of expression. The printing press magnified the reach of opinions, information and ideas. Indeed, the pen became mightier than the sword. Guaranteeing each individual the right to freely give and receive information was perceived as a threat to the sovereign and sometimes even the State; when ideologies clashed. It was the era of mass media.

The upshot of the above discussion is, petitioner is not entitled to get any reliefs as is sought for in this writ petition. Writ petition fails and dismissed.

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Judgement reviewed by: Sarita Kumari

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