Journalism is a civilization’s mirror and investigative journalism its X-ray, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has observed while quashing summonses and all subsequent proceedings in a 2008 defamation case against some journalists here.
In its order dated January 4, the Bench of Justice Anoop Chitkara also noted that journalists serve as independent monitors of power and report information for public good and safety.
“Journalism is civilization’s mirror, investigative journalism its X-ray,” it said in the order.
The case emanates from defamation suits filed in 2008 by IPS officer (now retired) P V Rathee against senior journalists including Vipin Pubby, then a Chandigarh-based editor of a daily.
“Journalism is the fourth pillar of any democracy. As a journalist, the reporter’s sacrosanct duty is loyalty towards the citizenry. They serve as independent monitors of power, reporting information for public good and safety, addressing any problems or lacunae in the public system for its effective functioning and immediate redressal.
“In the fearless pursuit of their duties to uncover the truth and report such facts to the masses through media, these brave journalists do face various hurdles, e.g., pressures from influential parties, groups, or government agencies etc,” the court observed in its judgment.
To ensure an honest and correct reporting of actual events, such journalists require the protection of courts, especially constitutional courts to enable them to publish news without fear of harmful consequences, Justice Chitkara mentioned in his order.
“Thus, all courts must be more vigilant and proactive while safeguarding the interests of such courageous humans,” Justice Chitkara observed, while disposing the petitions filed by Pubby and three other journalists.
The complaint against them had been filed against them in 2008 under IPC Sections related to defamation. Pubby and another petitioner have since retired from the organisation they worked with then.
They were booked under sections 499 (defamation), 500 (punishment for defamation) and 501 (printing any matter that is defamatory of any person).
The journalists had moved the high court seeking to quash the summonses and setting aside the dismissal of criminal revision by a Gurugram Sessions Court.
“A complete reading of the news, which contained the complainant’s rebuttal, his version, the version of the police, can be stated to have been published in good faith and discharge of their functions in a democracy, and if restrictions are created to publish such news, it would be just like killing a mockingbird,” reads the court order in the case of one of the petitioners.
“In the light of judicial precedents and appreciation of the complaint, the preliminary evidence led by the complainant, and its analysis makes it clear that the petitioner is entitled to the benefit of the first and ninth exceptions to S. (Section) 499 IPC, which makes the order of summoning bad in law.
“Even if the allegations against the petitioner mentioned in the complaint and the preliminary evidence are accepted entirely, those fail to point towards any actual violation of Section 499 IPC.
“In the facts and circumstances peculiar to this case, the court’s non-interference would result in a miscarriage of justice, and thus, this Court invokes the inherent jurisdiction under section 482 CrPC and quashes the summons and all subsequent proceedings as well as the judgment passed in the criminal revision..,”