The high court’s observations came on a day the SC granted interim protection from arrest to Marunadan Malayali editor Shajan Skaria.
The Supreme Court has granted interim protection from arrest to Marunadan Malayali editor Shajan Skaria while the Kerala High Court has noted that a journalist’s phone cannot be seized by the police in a case without following the legal procedure.
The Supreme Court directions came over a petition filed by Skaria seeking the quashing of an FIR filed under the SC/ST Act against him. It was issued hours before the high court’s observations in a petition filed by Mangalam Daily journalist G Visakhan, who alleged police harassment in the case against Skaria.
Skaria was booked under Sections 3(1)(r) and 3(1)(u) of the SC/ST Act, and Section 120 of Kerala Police Act over a report that allegedly defamed CPI(M) legislator P V Sreenijin and mentioned his caste. In subsequent police action on Marunadan Malayali premises, the phones of several journalists were allegedly seized. Newslaundry had earlier reported on the searches, which Marunadan Malayali had termed a “witch-hunt”.
On Monday, the Supreme Court observed that Skaria’s “statement may be defamatory” but would not be an offence under the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
“Father-in-law, judiciary…that may be in bad taste, but certainly it can’t be an offence under SC/ST Act,” noted Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, adding that he had seen the transcript of the news item and “there is not a whisper of an allegation under SC/ST Act in it”.
Meanwhile, the Kerala High Court pointed out that journalists are part of the fourth estate.
Hearing a petition by G Vishakan, a journalist with Malayalam daily Mangalam Daily, Justice PV Kunhikrishnan said, “The journalist may be getting several information in their mobile phones... simply because, the journalist has got some information about the crime, the mobile phone cannot be seized, without following the procedure contemplated in CrPC.”
The high court had earlier denied Skaria’s appeal for anticipatory bail.