The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to entertain a writ petition filed by Arnab Goswami-led Republic TV against the FIR registered by Mumbai Police naming its editors and reporters for allegedly trying to cause "disaffection" among members of the police personnel.
ARG Outlier Media Ltd, which runs Republic TV channels, had challenged the "Police (Incitement to Disaffection) Act, 1922" under which the FIR has been registered.
It was colonial act made to regulate nationalistic activities and now it is being used to curb fundamental rights, Senior Advocate Siddharth Bhatnagar said while arguing for the petitioner.
The bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde dismissed the petition as withdrawn with liberty to approach the Bombay High Court.
The Mumbai Police had in October registered an FIR against four senior journalists and several other staffers of the news channel Republic TV on charges of defamanation and inciting "disaffection" among members of the police force.
The FIR, registered at N M Joshi Marg Police Station in the city, pertained to a report run by the channel about a "revolt" against the city police commissioner Parambir Singh by senior officers.
The first information report was filed under section 3(1) of the Police (Incitement to Disaffection) Act, 1922, along with IPC section 500 (defamation) on a complaint by sub-inspector Shashikant Pawar of the Special Branch.
Who were named in the FIR?
The accused Republic TV channel staffers named in the FIR are Executive Editor Niranjan Narayanswamy, Deputy News Editors Sagarika Mitra and Shawan Sen, Anchor/Senior Associate Editor Shivani Gupta, Deputy Editor Shawan Sen, other editorial staff and the newsroom in-charge.
What led to the 'defamation' and 'inciting disaffection' allegations?
The accused aired a report on Thursday between 7.00 PM to 7.10 PM about a 'revolt' against Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh by senior police officers, the FIR said, claiming that this amounted to incitement to disaffection among members of the police force and defamation of the force.
The report in question pertains to one headlined "Revolt Against Param Bir? Senior Officers Part of Probe Give Details" which was monitored by the complainant Pawar on Thursday evening.
The Republic TV report claimed that officers of Mumbai Police were on the verge of rebelling against the Commissioner of Police, citing sources contending that officers were disregarding his orders, which ostensibly spoiled the image of the city police force, it said.
(With PTI inputs)