Needless to mention cybercrime is on the rise in the state and a good deal of people is affected by the menace.
The Orissa High Court has quashed criminal proceedings initiated against the input editor of a private TV news channel in connection with an audio transcript telecast in the channel during the global pandemic three years ago, saying that the continuation of such criminal proceedings will have a chilling effect on press freedom.
Chief Justice Dr. S Muralidhar quashed the proceeding initiated in August 2000 in an order pronounced on Wednesday.
The criminal proceeding pending in the Court SDJM, Bhubaneswar and all proceedings consequent thereto are hereby quashed”, the Court stated in the order.
An audio recording of a telephonic conversation between two persons, one of whom claimed to have returned from a COVID Hospital after being identified as a Corona +ive was telecast by the private news channel on 6th August, 2020. The said conversation also was uploaded on Youtube and other social media platforms by the TV channel The allegation was that one of the men in the conversation had undermined the seriousness of the corona pandemic and claimed that it would be cured without treatment and medicines.
Later, an FIR was registered in Capital Police Station here on the ground that by telecasting and circulating the above audio recording, the news channel was dissuading the public from availing the requisite treatment thereby causing an increase in the spread of COVID.
The FIR further alleged that as a result of such circulation of the audio recording, fear/alarm was being spread in the public as regards the medical treatment protocol and clinical management of COVID patients.
“Upon a careful perusal of the complaint/FIR and the transcript of the conversation as placed on record by the Petitioner with the additional affidavit, the Court is satisfied that the offences under which the FIR has been registered are not even prima facie made out against the Petitioner”, Chief Justice Dr. Muralidhar stated in the order
Indeed, the conversation appears to be a casual one not intended to cause panic in the public. It is highly unlikely that this one conversation would somehow induce the public to avoid treatment for Covid thus resulting in the spread of the pandemic and much less still induce the public to commit offences against the State.
The court is of the view that the continuation of such a criminal case against the petitioner, who is an Input editor of a news channel is likely to have a chilling effect on press freedom, Chief Justice Dr. Muralidhar concluded in the order.