The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a petition challenging the Patna High Court’s order restraining the media from reporting about the inquiry into the rapes of minor girls at a shelter home in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur, reported PTI.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud will take up the matter on September 10.
The plea, filed by a journalist on Wednesday, claims that the “erroneous” order is equivalent to imposing a “blanket ban” on media reporting in the case and is contrary to the freedom of speech and expression.
The petition alleges that the Patna High Court did not have sufficient material to conclude that media reporting could interfere with the ongoing investigation. “The High Court committed an error in appreciating that the blanket ban had a chilling effect and is a direct assault on the rights of the public at large as also the rights of the fourth estate under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution,” it reads.
On August 23, the Patna High Court said it was concerned about details being leaked to the press and asked reporters not to publish them as it could hamper the investigation. The order was criticised by the Editors Guild of India, which was distressed to learn that the court had curbed media freedom instead of protecting it.
Thirty four minor girls were raped at the state-run shelter, according to a report by the Patna Medical College and Hospital.
The “shocking incident” was exposed by the media and curbing it is an “arbitrary” decision, says the petition. It adds that boys at a juvenile home in Bihar’s Arrah complained to their parents about physical and sexual abuse after the Muzaffarpur incident came to light, leading to seven people being arrested.