Airing private WhatsApp messages of accused is dangerous: Government in Supreme Court

Days after Chief Justice S A Bobde flagged the misuse of freedom of speech, attorney general K K Venugopal on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that there was an urgent need to strike a balance between freedom of speech and contempt of court as the media was foraying into “forbidden territory”. In what appeared to be an obvious reference to reporting of actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death by suicide and ancillary issues by TV channels, the AG said, “A bail petition is filed in a court of law and TV channels go to town with private WhatsApp conversation messages of the accused. This is prejudicial to the rights of the accused and is very dangerous for the administration of justice.”

Last week, while hearing a petition seeking preventive and punitive measures to curb broadcast and circulation of hate speech against Muslims, a CJI-led bench had reacted sharply to a suggestion that these were issues relating to free speech. “Freedom of speech is the most abused freedom these days,” the CJI had said on October 8.

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