On Monday, the Punjab and Haryana High Court stayed a “blanket bar”on circulation of news via social media platforms which was imposed by the Karnal administration.
Justice Sudip Ahluwalia remarked that the impugned order is in context of the Samachar Express Broadcasting News Private Ltd,
“It is modified to the extent that there shall be no bar to the petitioner for using the social media platform for disseminating information concerning any general developments.”
Clarification by the Court
It was clarified by the bench that if any information or reference to any item relating to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is concerned, the same shall “necessarily have to be based on the information available from the Official Portal of the State/Central Government, as the case may be.”
Noting out that the administration had imposed an “absolute bar” on any kind of news, even if not related to COVID-19 Pandemic directly or indirectly, the interim relief was granted to the Petitioner.
Submissions by the Petitioner
The company informed that the blanket bar of user of social media platform was for circulation of news, “ostensibly” to stopthe circulation of incorrect or undesirable news or the information concerning the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic which is violative of theFundamental Right ‘to Freedom of Expression’of the citizens.
It was argued that the reasonableness test is “squarely missing”as the agenda behind passing of the impugned order had been to restrict circulation of fake, incorrect or otherwise undesirable news pertaining to the Pandemic, the same could have been specified in the operative section.
The matter is listed for hearing on August 14, after issuing the notices to the Respondents.
Case Title: Samachar Express Broadcasting News Private Ltd &Anr. v. Union of India &Ors.
Case No.: CWP No. 10289/2020
Quorum: Justice Sudip Ahluwalia
Appearance: Senior Advocate AkshayBhan (for Petitioner); Advocate Amandeep S. Talwar (for Respondents)