New Delhi: The Supreme Court expressed serious concerns on Tuesday regarding the confiscation of digital devices belonging to journalists and urged the Central government to establish improved regulations governing the powers of investigative agencies.
A bench consisting of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia addressed a petition filed by the Foundation for Media Professionals, which called upon the top court to implement safeguards against unjust interference by law enforcement agencies and create comprehensive guidelines for the search and seizure of digital devices.
The Additional Solicitor General (ASG) S.V. Raju, representing the Centre, informed the court that the matter involves complex legal issues and requested an adjournment of the hearing for the time being.
During the hearing, Justice Kaul remarked that it is challenging to accept the vast powers currently held by these agencies, deeming it a perilous situation. The bench urged the Centre to formulate better guidelines in response to this issue.
This petition comes in the aftermath of raids conducted by the Special Cell of Delhi Police on October 3 at the residences of 46 journalists, editors, writers, and professionals seemingly associated with the online news portal NewClick.
Subsequent to these raids, various media organizations, including the Press Club of India, Digipub News India Foundation, and the Indian Women Press Corps, penned a letter in October to Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud, seeking guidelines concerning the police seizure of journalists’ electronic devices.
As a result of the raids, two individuals were arrested under various sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
The letter highlighted the current climate in which a substantial portion of Indian journalists operate under the looming threat of reprisal and emphasized the importance of the judiciary upholding the fundamental truth that there is a Constitution to which everyone is answerable to.
The court is scheduled to resume the hearing on December 6.