Delhi HC greenlights Cobrapost’s Sting, calls Free Speech Lifeblood of Democracy

In a shot in the arm for freedom of press, the Delhi High Court has quashed the order restraining Cobrapost from publishing its sting operation against prominent media houses. Earlier on May 24, a single judge bench of Justice Valmiki Mehta had passed an interim order preventing Cobrapost, a web portal known for investigative journalism, from releasing any materials related to its sting operation titled Operation 136 (Part 2). But on Friday, a Division Bench of the Delhi HC comprising Justice Ravindra Bhat and Justice AK Chawla set aside the interim order stating, “Free speech is the lifeblood of democracy.”

Cobra Post

The court observed, “If courts are to routinely stifle debate, what cannot be done by law by the State can be achieved indirectly without satisfying exacting constitutional standards that permit infractions on the valuable right to freedom of speech.”

The two-part sting operation showcases how top media houses, including top television networks and popular newspapers, are open to accepting payment in order to publish articles and telecast shows that further agendas of religious groups affiliated to political parties, in a bid to build favourable opinion among viewers. The project was titled Operation 136 as that was India’s ranking in the World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders. Since then, India has slipped two more places.

The Dainik Bhaskar Group had moved court stating that Part 2 of the sting was released with the sole intention to defame them. But in their judgment, the bench held that “those who fill public positions must not be too thin-skinned in respect of references made upon them.” 
Shortly after the judgment Cobrapost uploaded the entire sting with transcripts. It may be viewed here. The entire judgment may be read here:





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