Do not want freedom of press to be muzzled: Indian SC

New Delhi, September 09 (KMS): The Indian Supreme Court has said that it does not want freedom of press to be muzzled or stifled but it cannot create a separate avenue for journalists to approach it directly for quashing of FIRs lodged against them.

The apex court stated this while hearing a plea filed by Foundation for Independent Journalism, which publishes digital news portal The Wire’, and its three journalists, seeking quashing of the FIRs, lodged against them in Uttar Pradesh.

A bench, headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao, asked the petitioners to approach the Allahabad High Court to seek the quashing of FIRs and granted them protection from coercive steps for two months.

“You go to the high court and argue for quashing. We will protect you in the interim,” said the bench, also comprising justices B R Gavai and B V Nagarathna.

“We cannot create a separate avenue for journalists to directly come to this court under Article 32 for quashing of FIRs,” the bench observed. The top court said it understands the importance of right of free speech and “doesn’t want freedom of press to be muzzled”.

The apex court told the counsel, appearing for the petitioners, that it will grant protection and they can approach the high court on the issue.

“Nitya Ramakrishnan, counsel appearing for the petitioners, seeks permission to withdraw this writ petition to pursue other remedies available to the petitioners under law. No coercive steps shall be taken against the petitioners for a period of two months from today. Writ petition is, accordingly, dismissed as withdrawn, the bench said in its order.

The petition, filed through advocate Shadan Farasat, said these FIRs have been filed solely on account of journalistic reporting of various events and occurrences of public relevance.