New Delhi, May 18 (ILNS) The Delhi High Court today adjourned the hearing to August 5, on a petition filed by Toolkit case accused Disha Ravi, alleging that Delhi Police leaked information to the media and third parties.
The matter was listed before the Single-Judge Bench of Justice Rekha Palli, which expressed disappointment on the delay in filing of reply by the Central Government. “I should impose costs on you? What is the sanctity of the last opportunity?,” said Justice Palli.
Central Government Standing Counsel Ajay Digpaul cited the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason behind the delay. The Court granted another four weeks for filing the Counter-affidavit, while stating that interim orders will continue.
On March 17, 2021, the High Court had granted two weeks’ time to Delhi Police and the Central government to file their response over the petition filed by Toolkit case accused Disha Ravi, alleging leakage of information to the media and third parties by the Delhi Police.
The said directions from the High Court came after Ravi’s Counsel and Senior Advocate Akhil Sibal submitted before the Bench that all the respondents in the case have filed their replies, apart from respondents 1 and 2, being the Union of India and the Delhi Police.
The 22-year-old climate activist, who is an accused in the Toolkit case, had approached the Delhi High Court, seeking directions to restrain Delhi Police from leaking any investigation material relating to the case filed against her by the special cell.
Justice Prathiba M Singh on February 19 had said, “Right to privacy, the sovereignty and integrity of the country and the freedom of speech need to be balanced.”
The Court said that the recent coverage by media definitely shows there is sensationalised reporting by the media.
“The print and electronic media plays a very important role in ensuring that there is no sensationalism and that they adhere to responsible journalism. Recent coverage by the media definitely shows that there is sensationalism. While police briefings and the happenings in Court proceedings can also be broadcasted and disseminated, leaked investigation material ought not to be disseminated, so as to prejudice the investigation,” observed the Court.
The High Court had on February 19, refused to grant relief at this stage to Ravi, but directed the Delhi Police to adhere to its affidavit that “it would not leak any information” regarding the investigation or her personal chats in the case.
The Court had passed the following directions on February 19:
(1) The Delhi Police will strictly abide by the affidavit dated February 18, 2021, which has been filed today as also the Office Memorandum dated April 1, 2010, which is, admittedly, still in operation. The Delhi Police or other investigation authorities would, however, be, in terms of the said OM, entitled to conduct their briefings in accordance with law so long as no rights of the Petitioner are violated.
(2) Media houses shall also ensure that the telecast/broadcast by them is from verified/authenticated sources, though the sources need not be revealed. All disseminated content shall be in strict adherence to the `Programme Code’ as contained in the Cable Television Networks Rules 1994 as also the Code of Ethics & Broadcasting Standards prescribed by the News Broadcasters Association.
(3) The editorial teams of the respective channels shall ensure thatonly such broadcasts and telecasts are communicated and disseminated, which have verified data and verified content. The channel editors shall ensure that the channels exercise proper editorial control so that the Petitioner’s investigation is not hampered, in any manner.
If the charge-sheet is filed in the meantime and the same is made public, once the investigation reaches some conclusion, dissemination of the contents of the charge-sheet would not be interdicted in any manner.
(4) Since there is an allegation that persons who sympathise with the petitioner’s cause are attempting to malign the police and investigation authorities, Akhil Sibal, Senior Counsel while denying the allegation, assures that the Petitioner or any other person directly associated with her do not intend to indulge in any kind of maligning of the police or the investigating authorities. This assurance is accepted by the Court.
(5) The question of removal of content, which is already in public domain, shall be considered with the hearing of the stay application at a later stage.
The Court said, “All parties and the media in general shall adhere to the above directions. The NBSA should communicate these directions to all its members.”
In her plea, Disha has sought directions not to disclose the contents of her private chats/communication to any third party, including the media.
Ravi has said in her petition that the illegal actions and omissions on part of the respondents have irrevocably violated her fundamental right to privacy, her right to reputation, her dignity, and the consequent effect of the administration of justice and right to fair trial – all guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
“…there is no clarification in any of the tweets or the news reporting to the effect that disclosure statements or ‘admissions’ made whilst in police custody are wholly inadmissible in evidence and have no basis in law. As such, in view of the facts described herein, it is highly likely that the general public will perceive these news items as being conclusive as to the guilt of the petitioner,” the plea said.
Ravi was arrested by the Delhi Police on February 13 and granted bail by a Trial Court here on February 19. ILNS/KR/RJ