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Disha Ravi arrest: High Court caution for Delhi police, media over probe

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Disha Ravi arrest: High Court caution for Delhi police, media over probe
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New Delhi: The Delhi High Court today made observations about "sensationalism" in reporting following the notice received by three news channels over activist Disha Ravi's petition, the NDTV reported. The observation comes based on the coverage of her arrest in a case related to the farmers' protest toolkit shared by Swedish teen climate crusader Greta Thunberg earlier this month.

The High Court asked Delhi Police to stick to the stand that it hasn't leaked details while the reporters were asked to ensure the "probe is not hampered". At the same time, the court directed Ms Ravi, 22, "to ensure that there is no indulgence to malign the police and other authorities".

In her petition, the climate activist had sought action against three news channels - News 18, India Today, and Times Now - for publishing contents of her alleged private chats, and thereby violating Cable TV Network rules.

"While a journalist cannot be asked to reveal their source, the same has to be authentic. The Delhi Police claims that it has not leaked anything whereas the media claims to the contrary," the court observed on Friday.

"Half-baked, speculative information about an ongoing investigation was being disseminated," lawyer Akhil Sibal, appearing for the environmental activist, told the court even as the Delhi Police maintained that no private chats were leaked.

"Right to privacy, the sovereignty and integrity of the country and the freedom of speech need to be balanced. The recent coverage shows there is sensationalised reporting by the media. While press briefings are held generally, media cannot disseminate the information in such a sensationalised manner," the High Court said.

The news channels have been told to "ensure that proper editorial control is exercised while disseminating information to ensure the investigation is not hampered".

Ms Ravi had moved the High Court seeking directions to the police to not leak investigation material, including alleged contents of her private chats to the media. The 22-year-old had also alleged that the police "did not obtain any transit remand, nor did they permit the petitioner to consult with a lawyer".

"Surprisingly, there was significant media coverage of the petitioner's remand hearing and the media seemed to have more knowledge about the time and venue of the petitioner's production than her lawyers," her petition read.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Suryaprakash V Raju today said Ms Ravi was "defaming and vilifying the police to put pressure" on the cops, stressing that the petition "is a systematic attempt to blame the police and derail the investigation."

"The police or any other agency cannot use the media till the investigation is pending to subvert the process of justice, as this would weaken the presumption of innocence in favour of the accused," Mr Sibal countered.

Ms Ravi's arrest had triggered widespread condemnation from the opposition leaders and farmers who have been agitating against three new agricultural laws near Delhi's borders since late November.

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