New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday lifted the gag order on media reporting of troop movement ordered by the Allahabad High Court.

The SC pronounced the order while hearing the petition filed through PCI Chairman and former Apex Court judge Markandeya Katju's office which submitted that the HC order was in violation of the fundamental right under Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution, granted to the media and every citizen of the country.

On April 10, the High Court bench of justices Uma Nath Singh and Virendra Kumar Dixit had directed various Central and state government authorities "to ensure that there is no reporting / release of any news item by the print or electronic media, namely the movement of troops."

The directions were given to the Union Home secretary, the Information and Broadcasting secretary and the principal secretary (Home) of the Uttar Pradesh government.

The High Court order had come on a PIL filed by a social activist relating to a report in The Indian Express on April 4, 2012. The report pertained to purported movements of some Army troops towards New Delhi.

Breach of Fundamental Rights

Katju earlier had said, "With great respect to the High Court, I am of the opinion that its order is not correct. The media has a fundamental right under Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution to make such publication, as it did not endanger national security.

Katju had also maintained that the Indian Army is not a colonial army, but the army of the Indian people who pay the taxes for the entire defence budget.

"Hence the people of India have a right to know about army affairs, except where that may compromise national security. The media did an excellent job in exposing the Adarsh and Sukhna scams in which senior army officers were involved, and they were well within their right under Article 19(1) (a) to do so,” the PCI chairman had said.

Katju's contention is that such reporting can be prohibited only near the border and during war times.

Indian Express report

According to a Indian Express report, the central intelligence agencies reported that on the night of January 16, there was an unexpected and non-notified movement by key military unit around Delhi in the direction of the capital.  

The allegation in the Indian Express report was that there was some convention written or unwritten, that troop movements towards Delhi should not take place without notifying and getting consent of the government which was not done, Katju had said.

The PCI chief said that The Indian Express is not a fly by night newspaper, but a responsible one. "They (Express) took 11 weeks to complete the investigation of the reported troop investigation before deciding to publish the report. Hence I do not see how they can be faulted," he further added.

Mala Dixit/JPN

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