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News of death not negative: Delhi HC dismisses PIL to regulate “negativity” due to reporting on COVID-19

News of death cannot be said to be negative, said the Delhi High Court today as it dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) to curb “negativity” caused by reporting on the mass scale deaths and sufferings of people during the COVID-19 crisis (Lalit Valecha vs UOI).

A Division Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jasmeet Singh stated that if print and electronic media is publishing correct news, there cannot be any restrictions on it.

The PIL was preferred by advocate Lalit Valecha (petitioner) who, in the backdrop of the second wave of COVID-19, claimed that “negative images/visuals/stories over TV could be dangerous to the public” and it causes “negativity, sense of insecurity towards life, alarm, injury, harm, suffering, damage“.

TV news channels are airing news bulletins 24×7 and most of the times such news bulletins are repeat telecast. Although the same negative images/visuals/stories are shown in the repeat programs, but it gives an impression as if new/fresh incidents are occurring every now and then…” the petition further said.

The petitioner thus prayed that regulations be put in place regarding airing of news articles and other programs so that the public is not exposed to such negative images/visuals/stories.

After hearing counsel for the petitioner, advocate Sadaf Iliyas Khan, the Court opined that it saw no reason to entertain this PIL.

The Court noted that the petitioner had not pointed out any violation. To say that death was “negative news” was a wrong notion, the Court added.

The Court was initially inclined to impose costs on the petitioner, but subsequently dismissed the petition without any costs.

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