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Two Years On, Union Asks for Another Week’s Time to Submit Guidelines for Seizure of Devices

The petition seeking framing of guidelines on the matter was filed by the Foundation for Media Professionals in 2021.
The Supreme Court of India. Photo: Pinakpani/Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 4.0.

New Delhi: The Union government on Wednesday (December 6) told the Supreme Court that guidelines to regulate the seizure of phones and other digital devices of media professionals and individuals will be ready by next week.

The petition seeking framing of guidelines on the matter was filed by the Foundation for Media Professionals in 2021.

The bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia said, “When did we issue notice? Some time frame has to be followed. Two years have passed.”

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) S.V. Raju informed them that a committee had been formed in this regard and that the Union government would require more time to formulate the guidelines.

According to LiveLaw, as ASG Raju assured the court that the guidelines would be ready by next week, the bench said, “Get it done,” and posted the matter for hearing on December 14.

Pointing out that nearly 300 journalists were raided in the recent case involving NewsClick, senior advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan argued for the urgent need for these guidelines. She said that copies of necessary data on devices could be taken instead of seizing the entire content.

Also read: Supreme Court Circulates Interim Guidelines for Seizure of Devices

In the last hearing of the matter on November 7, the bench had said that search and seizure of media professionals’ devices was a “serious matter” as it involved confidential sources and their right to privacy.

Justice Kaul had said, “These are media professionals, they will have on their phone’s sources, contacts. So, there must be some guidelines. This is serious.”

ASG Raju had countered this by saying that the media cannot be above the law and there may be “anti-national” elements so the government shouldn’t be “shut out completely”.

However, the bench had said that there has to be a “balancing of interests” including the right to privacy, LiveLaw reported.

“There has to be a balancing of interests and better guidelines need to be in place to protect media professionals. We would like ASG to work on this and come back on this issue. In view of the aspect that privacy is held to be a fundamental right,” the bench had said in its order on November 7.

Two days after the last hearing in this case, the Supreme Court had circulated interim guidelines for seizure of devices submitted to the court by five renowned academics – Ram Ramaswamy, Madhava Prasad, Sujata Patel, Deepak Malghan and Mukul Kesavan.

The Union government is expected to take into account the circulated draft of guidelines and submit a response in court.

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