Reaffirming the freedom of the press, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has declined relief to cricketer Yuvraj Singh, who had sought directives to media houses to refrain from reporting about the personal lives of his family members in any manner and specifically, in his younger brother’s matrimonial discord case.
“Freedom of speech or expression, which is a sacred right of an individual in a democracy conferred and enshrined in the Constitution of India, cannot be thwarted or stiffed much less merely on apprehension of an abuse,” remarked Justice Mahesh Grover, after going through the petition.
The vacation bench judge, in his order passed on Friday, added, “For the time being, there is nothing on record to indicate that the press/media has acted without restraint. The court, thus, cannot presume anything which would imply an unrestrained or irresponsible act by them.”
The petitioners, Yuvraj Singh (33), his mother Shabnam Singh (55) and younger brother Zoravar Singh Bundhel (27), residents of Mani Majra in Chandigarh, had submitted that they have “apprehensions” that in Bundhel’s matrimonial dispute, his Gurgaon based in-laws might hold press conferences with the “malafide intention” to “tarnish their image” in the eyes of the public.
They had also sought directions that nothing about their personal lives should be reported even through social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs or in any website or online portals.
It was submitted that Yuvraj Singh, recipient of Arjuna Award (2012) and Padma Shri (2014), has a great public image and is globally acknowledged as a celebrity because of his outstanding performance in cricket spanning over 14 years.
However, on an adjournment prayer made by petitioners’ counsel, the court without issuing any notice to the respondents, posted the matter for July 17. Bundhel got married on February 27, 2014, in Gurdwara Daffera Sahib, Fatehgarh Sahib district of Punjab. Since the marriage was not working well, Bundhel in a legal manner decided to get his marriage dissolved by seeking a decree of divorce by approaching the Chandigarh district court on April 30 this year.
“On receipt of notice of the divorce petition, respondent No. 8 to 10 (wife and in-laws living in Gurgaon) have taken up so offensively that they have started openly threatening to hold press conferences and to brief the entire media, both print and electronic, by providing them false, frivolous and scandalous information relating to the personal life of the petitioners with malafide intention of tarnishing the image,” reads the petition.
The petitioners told the court that they had requested all the media houses “not to entertain any such briefing given by respondents No. 8 to 10 but nobody has given any satisfactory response not to publish any such item.” It was submitted that an unfair reporting of the case would amount to a “media trial” and would adversely affect the divorce case hearing in the court.