Seizure of journalists’ devices serious matter: SC asks Centre to bring in guidelines

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed grave concern over the seizures of digital devices of journalists and asked the Centre to bring in better guidelines to regulate powers of investigating agencies.

A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia was hearing a petition by the Foundation for Media Professionals.

The PIL appealed to the top court to bring in safeguards against unreasonable interference by law enforcement agencies and create comprehensive guidelines for the search and seizure of digital devices.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) S.V. Raju appearing for the Centre told the court that the matter involves several complicated legal issues and requested the bench to adjourn the hearing for now.

While hearing the case, Justice Kaul remarked that it is very difficult to accept some kind of all-within power that the agencies have.

Calling this a very dangerous situation, the bench directed the Centre to bring in better guidelines. The petition comes in the wake of October 3 raids by the Special Cell of Delhi Police on houses of 46 journalists, editors, writers and professionals seemingly connected to the online news portal NewClick.

Following the raids, several media organisations, including Press Club of India, Digipub News India Foundation and Indian Women Press Corps wrote a letter to Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud in October seeking guidelines on police seizures of electronic devices of journalists.

The raids led to the arrest of two persons under the various sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

“The fact is that today, a large section of journalists in India finds itself working under the threat of reprisal. And it is imperative that the judiciary confronts Power with fundamental Truth — that there is a Constitution to which we are all answerable” the letter said.

The court will resume hearing on December 6.


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