IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
Y.V. Chandrachud, C.J.
1. This is a petition under Article 32 of the Constitution by the Chief Reporter of the Hindustan Times, Smt. Prabha Dutt, asking for a writ of mandamus or any other appropriate writ or direction directing the respondents, particularly the Delhi Administration and the Superintendent of Jail, Tihar, to allow her to interview two convicts Billa and Ranga who are under a sentence of death. We may mention that the aforesaid two prisoners have been sentenced to death for an offence under Section 302 Indian Penal Code and the petitions filed by them to the President of India for commutation of the sentence are reported to have been rejected by the President recently.
2. Before considering the merits of the application, we would like to observe that the constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression conferred by Article 19(l)(a) of the Constitution, which includes the freedom of the Press, is not an absolute right, nor indeed does it confer any right on the Press to have an unrestricted access to means of information. The Press is entitled to exercise its freedom of speech and expression by publishing a matter which does not invade the rights of other citizens and which does not violate the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, public order, decency and morality. But in the instant case, the right claimed by the petitioner is not the right to express any particular view or opinion but the right to means of information through the medium of an interview of the two prisoners who are sentenced to death. No such right can be claimed by the Press unless in the first instance, the person sought to be interviewed is willing to be interviewed. The existence of a free Press does not imply or spell out any legal obligation on the citizens to supply information to the Press, such for example, as there is under Section 161(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code.
Buy this document