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Mere apprehension not enough to stall newspaper publication: Madras High Court

A division bench comprising Justice N.Kirubakaran and Justice R Hemalatha said 'mere apprehension or least probability' about whether the disease can be spread through newspapers cannot be a ground to prohibit their publication as it would amount to a violation of the Fundamental Rights.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Apr 10, 2020, 05.52 PM IST
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The court also observed the importance of the media in a democracy and that any attempt to restrict or prohibit the publication of newspapers would amount to muzzling of independence of media while also distinguishing between news and opinions.
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The Madras High Court on Thursday said 'a vibrant media' is an asset for any democratic country and refused to stall publication of newspapers after dismissing a plea that challenged the exemption given to print and electronic media from the national lockdown aimed to arrest the spread of the novel Coronavirus.

A division bench comprising Justice N.Kirubakaran and Justice R Hemalatha said 'mere apprehension or least probability' about whether the disease can be spread through newspapers cannot be a ground to prohibit their publication as it would amount to a violation of the Fundamental Rights, of not only the publisher, editor but also the readers.

The counsel for the petitioner relied upon the research studies that stated that Corona virus would persist up to 4 to 5 days and 24 days in paper and cardboard medium respectively. He said that when advanced countries are struggling to control the spread of virus, a developing country like India should not suffer because of the circulation of the newspapers, as there is a likelihood
of spreading of virus.

However, Additional Advocate General PH Aravind Pandian submitted that research in this area was very limited and not final.
"If there is possibility of spread of virus not only through newspapers sources, even by the circulation of money virus could be spread," he said and went on to point out that Dr T Jacob John, Professor of Virology at Christian Medical College, Vellore had stated that spread of virus through newspapers or papers is a least.

While dismissing the petition, the court said that the petitioner's research studies were conducted in countries like Germany and UK and there too the Governments had not prohibited the publication of newspapers and stressed that preliminary researches and in the absence of sufficient data, newspaper publication would not be stalled.

The court also observed the importance of the media in a democracy and that any attempt to restrict or prohibit the publication of newspapers would amount to muzzling of independence of media while also distinguishing between news and opinions.

"What is expected is only the news and not the views of the publisher," the court emphasised. "News, as it is, has to be brought to the readers and not the views of the publishers or his ideology. Though they are entitled to put forth their ideology, people want only the news as it stands. Mixing of views and ideology should be avoided. However, it is a fact that some of the publishers are mixing their views along with the news."
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