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AgustaWestland case: SC dismisses plea to probe role of media

LiveMint logoLiveMint 10-03-2017 PTI

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking an special investigation team (SIT) probe into the role of media in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam case, saying it is an “attack” on media’s independence.

“We will not direct any investigation against the media unless there is a direct involvement,” a bench headed by justice Dipak Misra said, while rejecting the PIL filed by veteran journalist Hari Jaisingh.

It seems there is a disguised attempt to curtail independence and freedom of media, the bench said, adding “this is an attack on media. We will not entertain this.” “We cannot curtail the right of the media in this manner. Media has been given an independent status in our democratic polity. Why should we entertain this,” said the bench, also comprising justices A.M. Khanwilkar and Mohan M. Shantanagoudar.

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The court, however, clarified that if the investigative agencies come across evidence with regard to involvement of certain individuals then they are free to probe. However, there cannot be an investigation into the role of media as a whole, it said.

Senior advocate Geeta Luthra, appearing for Singh, alleged that some members of the media where bribed by the offshore chopper firm to influence the decision making authority in favour of the VVIP helicopter deal. “I am seeking a direction to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate to also investigate the role of media persons in the case,” she said.

Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the centre, sought dimissal of the plea at the threshold saying how can there be an investigation into the role of media when there is an allegation that two persons entered into the “media management agreement”.

Considering the arguments, the bench asked, “Is this agreement registered. What is the admissibility of the agreement as evidence.” “Freedom of media is going to be curtailed and smothered.... We will not entertain this.”

The journalist in his PIL alleged that some media persons were bribed and extended unwarranted benefits in exchange for favouring the VVIP chopper deal. It was also alleged that certain journalist were sent to Italy along with their families by the company in question.

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