AP HC dismisses petition by journalist challenging Govt Order

Amaravati, June 2 (PTI): The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Monday dismissed a writ petition filed by a Hyderabad-based journalist challenging a Government Order that empowered the respective department secretaries to take appropriate action against publication of falsedefamatory news in the media.

A division bench, comprising Chief Justice J K Maheshwari and Justice N Jayasurya took into consideration the state governments contention that it did not want to restrict the freedom of the press, access to sources of information, freedom of publication and freedom of circulation'.

The intention of the G.O was that news items be published ensuring the responsibilities and ethics, the government said.

Concurring with this, the High Court said its interference in the matter was 'not warranted' and observed that as per the norms settled by the Press Council of India, relevant news items may be published.

It said that in furtherance to the G.O., if the government initiates any action before the appropriate forum, the said authorityforumourt would be at liberty to enquire into the justification of the allegations and decide the matter in accordance with the law.

The writ petition challenging the GO was filed by senior journalist Uppala Laksman of Hyderabad, seeking that the order be set aside as it was illegal, arbitrary, mala fide and violative of the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under the Constitution.

The order was based on a similar order (G.O 938) issued by the then Y S Rajasekhara Reddy government in 2007 in the erstwhile united Andhra Pradesh.

The GO 938 was immediately withdrawn following uproar from the media and opposition parties.

YSRs son Jagan Mohan Reddy sought to restore the GO and obtained his Cabinets approval in October last year and accordingly G0 2430 was issued on October 30, 2019.

While the 2007 order was limited to print and electronic media, the latest GO made social media posts also liable for legal action.

Whereas the old order delegated the power to the Information Commissioner for filing defamation cases against publishers and editors, the latest order empowered the secretaries of the respective departments as well to proceed legally and initiate action following due process of law.