Guidelines on search or seizure of digital devices of journalists must: SC
PTC News Desk: There should be guidelines in place to govern the search and seizure of phones or other digital devices belonging to individuals, particularly media professionals, said the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia ruled that media professionals could have confidential information or details about their sources on their devices.
"It's a serious matter. These are media professionals who will have their own sources and other things. There must be some guidelines. If you take everything away, there is a problem. You must ensure that there are some guidelines," the Court asked the Centre.
The Supreme Court was hearing a petition filed by the Foundation for Media Professionals urging the court to create safeguards against unreasonable interference by law enforcement agencies as well as comprehensive guidelines for the search and seizure of digital devices.
Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, representing the Central government, told the apex court that the authorities cannot be shut out from examining such devices.
"But there are anti-nationals who may... We cannot be shut out completely. Media cannot be above the law," he added.
According to Justice Kaul, guidelines were required to ensure that the agency's powers were not abused in this regard.
"Mr Raju, I am finding it very difficult to accept some kind of all-within power that the agencies have... This is very dangerous. You must have better guidelines. If you want us to do it, we will do it. But my view is that you ought to do it yourself. It's time that you ensure that this is not misused. It can't be a State that is run only through its agencies. We will give you time, no difficulty. But you must analyse what kind of guidelines are necessary to protect them. To some extent, this is not adversarial in that sense," the apex court stated.
"We have put to the ASG that there has to be a balancing of interests and proper guidelines need to be in place to protect the interest of media professionals. We would like the ASG to work on this and come back on this issue. This is more so in view of the aspect that privacy is held to be a fundamental right," the court said while posting the matter for hearing on December 6.