RJD national vice-president Shivanand Tewary on Friday criticised the Patna High Court’s decision to restrain the media from reporting on the Muzaffarpur shelter abuse case, saying it was “nothing less than a gag order” and went “against the very spirit of the right to know as enshrined in the RTI Act”.
The RJD leader said the order “violated” the provisions of the “freedom of expression”.
In a verbal order on Thursday, the Patna High Court said that “till the investigation is completed, all the print and electronic media are hereby restrained from reporting anything with respect to the case, more particularly, with respect to the investigation already undertaken and/ or which is likely to take place as it may seriously hamper the investigation of the case.”
It also directed the state government and the CBI “to see that the above order is complied with by everyone.”
“It is only because of media coverage of the Muzaffarpur case that the Supreme Court took suo motu cognizance of the case… Media has covered many important cases, including the fodder scam,” said Tewary.
He said a “blanket ban” on covering the case would mean that people would not get to know many facts which are in public interest. The RJD leader asked the court to reconsider its decision. “The HC order is not in consonance with the spirit of the right to know as enshrined in the RTI Act and is also against freedom of expression,” he said.
The JD(U) and BJP declined to comment on the court’s decision. “Why should we react to the court’s order. It has been monitoring the Muzaffarpur case and is competent to take a call,” said a BJP leader.
A senior JD(U) leader also echoed similar sentiments.
Meanwhile, Santosh Kumar, one of the petitioners in the case, told The Indian Express: “We are exploring the possibility of moving the Supreme Court against that part of the HC order which restrains media coverage… Now, the media may not cover any shelter irregularity case. Our common concern is to rectify the manner in which shelter houses are being run over the years.”