Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court on Monday issued notice to State Government over its circular banning door-to-door delivery of newspapers across state seeking its response to a petition challenging legality of this unreasonable restriction.
Justice Nitin Sambre issued a notice to Chief Secretary, Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry, DGIPR, District Collector Nagpur and Nagpur Municipal Corporation, asking them to file reply within two days. The next hearing is slated on April 23 to decide grant of interim relief about lifting the restriction on delivery of newspapers to homes.
The petition filed by Maharashtra Union of Working Journalists and Nagpur Union of Working Journalists has strongly opposed the addendum issued by State Government on April 18 and dubbed it as illegal, illogical and unconstitutional. The bar on circulation and distribution of newspapers is violative of fundamental right to speech and expression and goes against several Supreme Court rulings, the petitioners stated.
Citing an advisory issued by Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry, the petition noted that Union had directed all state and union territories to ensure uninterrupted functioning of print and electronic media including its printing and distribution. The advisories issued by MHA and State Government also recognised print media as essential service, but suddenly on April 18 barred distribution, which amounts to unreasonable restriction without any empirical evidence, contended Adv Deven Chauhan on behalf of petitioners. Some restrictions in containment zones or guidelines to ensure even more cleanliness are welcome, but gagging the voice of media through such diktats is not acceptable, the petitioners claimed.
While permitting home delivery of grocery, vegetables through e-platforms and even permitting plumbers and mechanics and food delivery service, human interference will occur, but newspaper delivery has no element of interaction between hawker and reader, the petitioner stated while questioning the very logic behind banning newspaper delivery and decrying the same as violative of fundamental right of citizens to get authentic and credible news at doorstep. The petitioners also opposed the argument of availability of e-paper as justification to ban physical delivery of papers.
Government Pleader Sumant Deopujari while opposing the petition claimed that it was reasonable restriction put in place due to spread of covid-19 pandemic. Besides, the readers are getting e-paper and hence there is no bar on circulation, he claimed while seeking rejection of the petition.
The High Court after a detailed hearing directed to join NMC as party respondent and directed the authorities to file reply before next date when plea for interim relief will be taken into consideration.