Press has a responsibility towards the nation and it cannot just shy away from accountability, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said after Uttar Pradesh minister Azam Khan denied having made any remark about the sensational Bulandshahr gangrape case which were widely reported.
“Several newspapers and news channels have reported the Press Conference of the minister in which the statements were made. But how can we find out if the facts are disputed?
“Press has responsibilities towards the nation. In a contentious matter, it can’t just wash its hands off,” a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy observed as Khan denied making any such statement.
The court directed Khan to file a counter affidavit stating his stand on the plea by November 17 after senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the UP minister, denied having made any remarks with regard to the gruesome gangrape incident or the investigation.
The bench observed that “it is a democratic principal that a public servant should not comment on the investigation of crime, if it is not related to him”.
Noted jurist and amicus curiae Fali S Nariman said if the court wants to know about the statements of minister reported in media, it can issue notice to all the seven channels and the newspapers.
The brutal incident had happened on the night of July 29 when a group of highway robbers stopped the car of a Noida- based family and sexually assaulted a woman and her daughter after dragging them out of the vehicle at gun-point.
The apex court had on August 29 taken note of the controversial remarks of Khan that the gangrape case was a “political conspiracy”.
The court said “had it been another matter where a statement is made against an individual, then he has a remedy like filing a defamation suit or case against the individual who has made the remarks.
“When a rape victim faces such statements, if true, then she can individually invoke article 32 (remedies for enforcement of rights) of the Constitution.”
The bench clarified that this case was not of a hate speech and the court was not dealing with the issue of hate speech. “This is controlled case of a rape victim where statements were made on the investigation of the case,” it said.