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Friday, March 05, 2021

Disha says chats being leaked by police, Delhi HC notice to news channels

The court issued notices to News Broadcasting Standards Authority, News18 and Times Now. A counsel representing India Today was present at the hearing.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
February 19, 2021 1:14:48 am
Disha Ravi, Disha Ravi arrest, toolkit arrest, Disha Ravi whatsapp chats, Disha ravi whatss app chats leak, indian express newsDisha Ravi was arrested last week. (File)

Bengaluru-based climate activist Disha Ravi, arrested last week in connection with the probe into the toolkit Google document tweeted by Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, Thursday approached the Delhi High Court to restrain Delhi Police from “leaking” her private chats to the media. She also sought directions to the Centre for appropriate action against news channels that published contents of the alleged conversations. The court will hear her case alleging violation of right to fair trial and right to privacy, and seeking a restraint order on Friday.

During a hearing before the court of Justice Prathiba M Singh, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta denied that police were leaking any information. “There is no leakage from us. We may even put it on affidavit by tomorrow,” Mehta, who along with Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma appeared in the matter on behalf of the police and union government, told the court.

However, senior advocate Akhil Sibal, representing Ravi, submitted that facts show otherwise: “The news channels say these are from police sources. How do they have access? I can’t be sharing my phone which is not in my custody. This is a bit disingenuous.” The ASG told the court, “I will file an affidavit. This is all for media attention. There is nothing being shared. Nothing can be shared.”

Sibal responded that a young girl is in custody and this is not for media attention: “The information they (media channels) have cannot have come from me.”

Justice Singh said the case requires consideration and adjourned the hearing to Friday morning. The court issued notices to News Broadcasting Standards Authority, News18 and Times Now. A counsel representing India Today was present at the hearing.

Ravi, in her petition, said she is severely aggrieved and prejudiced by the media trial surrounding her arrest and the ongoing probe. Alleging that Delhi Police has leaked the alleged WhatsApp chats which were only in possession of the investigating agency, she told the court that her mobile phone and laptop were seized on February 13 and has not been accessed by her since. “Only (police) had access to the contents of the petitioner’s private conversations and any leaks of the same necessarily constitute the commission of a cognizable offence and is a violation of petitioner’s dignity, reputation, and fundamental right to privacy, guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution,” the petition reads.

It further argues that publication and dissemination of her private alleged WhatsApp chats by the news channels is a clear violation of Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, the Programme Code and the Uplinking and Downlinking Guidelines. The media houses have published one-sided, defamatory, suggestive innuendos and half truths about her that undermine her presumption of innocence, it adds.

Ravi’s counsel also argued that tweets by Delhi Police regarding her alleged role in the case are in direct violation of a media advisory issued by MHA for the police. In its tweet, police claimed she was a “key conspirator in the document’s (toolkit) formulation and dissemination”. “Such tweets constitute an opinionated and judgmental statement and significantly impinge on the right to privacy and fair trial of the petitioner,” argues the plea.

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