October 2020 News

J&K HC Quashes Fake News FIR Against Journalist, Says He Published It 'in Good Faith'

8 October 2020

Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Thursday quashed an FIR registered against a Srinagar-based journalist for allegedly filing a false report over two years ago, while observing that he had reasonable grounds for believing that what he was publishing was based on facts. A single-judge bench of Justice Sanjay Dhar held that an offence under section 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) is not made out if the person making, publishing or circulating the report has reasonable grounds for believing that it is true and publishes it in good faith. An FIR was registered against M Saleem Pandit, a correspondent here for a national daily, on a complaint alleging that he had filed a false report that stone pelters had targeted tourists which had resulting in injuries to four women in April 2018. 'The documents referred to above, which are part of the record of investigation, clearly go on to show that the petitioner had reasonable grounds for believing that the news report, which he had published, is based on true facts,' the bench held in an order issued Wednesday. 'The Exception to Section 505 makes it very clear that an offence under said Section is not made out if the person making, publishing or circulating the report has reasonable grounds for believing that such report is true and publishes the said report in good faith,' the order said. The court said the case at hand 'falls in category (a) quoted above because the allegations made in the First Information Report and the complaint, even if they are taken at their face value and accepted in their entirety do not prima facie constitute any offence or make out a case against the petitioner. Thus, continuance of investigation in the subject FIR would amount to abuse of process of law,' it added. The bench also noted that the complainant had submitted before the high court that he was not interested in pursuing the prosecution of the case any further. 'Even otherwise, during the pendency of this petition, the complainant has entered into a compromise with the petitioner and he is not interested in continuing the prosecution against the petitioner. He has filed an affidavit to this effect before this Court. 'Therefore, if the investigation of the FIR is permitted to continue in the absence of statement of the complainant in support of the allegations made by him in the complaint, it would be like flogging a dead horse and no fruitful purpose will be served by continuing investigation of the case,' the court observed. The court, thus, quashed the FIR.