Police cannot seize journalist’s phone in violation of CrPC merely because it has information about a crime: Kerala High Court

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The Kerala High Court recently held that a journalist’s phone can be seized by the police only in accordance with the procedure prescribed by the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the same cannot be violated merely because the phone may contain some information about a crime [G Vishakan v State of Kerala].

Justice PV Kunhikrishnan noted that journalists may receive information about all sorts of crimes but that alone cannot be a reason to seize their phones.

“The journalists are part of fourth state. The Journalist may be getting several information in their mobile phones. But which news is to be telecasted and published is to be decided by Journalist taking into consideration the information received. Telecasting every information even if it is hearsay is not journalism. Simply because, the Journalist has got some information about the crime, the mobile phone cannot be seized, without following the procedure contemplated in CrPC,” the Court said.

The single-judge further stated that even if a journalist’s phone is needed in connection with some crime, the proper procedure must be followed.

“I am of the considered opinion that, the mobile phone of the journalist shall not be seized by the police authorities in violation of the provisions of Code of Criminal Procedure. If the mobile phone is necessary, in connection with a criminal case, there are procedures to be followed before seizing those items,” the single-judge underlined.

The Court made the observation while considering a petition moved by a journalist, one G Vishakan, who works with Mangalam Daily, a Malayalam daily dealing with political and current affairs.

In his petition, it was stated that on July 7, three police officers barged into the house he shares with his wife and children, and conducted an extensive search for over an hour. The petitioner was allegedly not told about why the search was being conducted.

Later, one of the police officers got in touch with him and the petitioner went to his office as requested. There, he was allegedly asked to surrender his mobile phone and he was issued an undated receipt of the seizure.

The petitioner contended that no court of law had issued a search warrant as required under Section 93 of the CrPC to conduct the search of his house. He stated that he was also not issued a Section 41A notice as per CrPC.

As far the crime in connection with which the search and seizure was supposedly conducted, the petitioner argued that he is not arrayed as an accused in the crime, and no incriminating evidence against him has been collected.

The petitioner submitted that while he has a good relationship with one of the accused, it is as part of his job as a journalist and that cannot be a reason to suspect him for commission of any offence in collusion with the accused.

It was also alleged in the plea that the police officials are acting under the influence of two members of the legislative assembly (MLAs).

Since his complaints made in this regard have been futile so far, the petitioner approached the Court seeking a direction to the State Police officials to not harass the petitioner or search his house. He also prayed that his mobile phone and SIM card be returned.

When the case came up for hearing today, the Court directed the concerned Station House Officer to file a statement regarding the circumstances under which the mobile phone of the petitioner was seized.

The matter will be considered next on July 21.

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