“Reasonable restrictions”

A story in Mint about the police using powers granted to them to block news channels in Mumbai for a few hours

News channels here went off the air for a little more than two hours on Friday after the city’s police department asked cable firms to block channels, and came back on air only after the Union home ministry’s intervention in what is perhaps the first instance of the police using the provisions of a legislation that regulates the cable television business to pull channels off air.

Shortly before noon, Sheela Sail, the deputy commissioner of police (enforcement), Mumbai, sent a letter to some cable operators asking them to block news channels, citing the impact on the people of their coverage of the ongoing terror attacks in the city and claiming that this coverage was also giving terrorists prior information of police action.


A legal expert said freedom of press is not an “absolute” right and that the state could enact laws to impose “reasonable restrictions” on the exercise of the right to freedom of speech and expression. The imposition of Rule 6 of the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994, to stop the media from relaying information on police operations against terrorist attacks in Mumbai is a “necessary restraint”, said senior counsel P.P. Rao. Rule 6 provides a list of restrictions on the nature of the content relayed by cable services.

The terrorists apparently had access to blackberrys. How does blacking out transmission in Mumbai prevent the information from getting on the internet? Don’t ask.

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