The Kerala High Court ruled on Monday that the police cannot seize a journalist’s phone without following the proper legal procedures. Justice P V Kunhikrishnan stated that journalists are considered part of the fourth estate, and if their mobile phone is required for a case, the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) must be followed before seizing it.
Kerala High Court Protects Journalist’s Rights, Rules Against Unauthorized Seizure of Phone by Police
The court’s decision was made in response to a petition filed by journalist G Vishakan, who alleged harassment by the police in connection with a case involving the editor of a YouTube news channel. The Supreme Court had earlier granted interim protection from arrest to the editor, while a special court in Kerala and the high court denied the same relief.
Vishakan claimed that the police conducted an unauthorized search of his home and seized his phone, and he requested the court to intervene and have his mobile phone returned as it was his sole means of livelihood. Justice Kunhikrishnan emphasized the need to respect the rights of journalists and instructed the police to provide a statement explaining the circumstances under which the journalist’s phone was seized.
The court also stated that journalists receive various types of information on their mobile phones, and simply having information about a crime does not justify seizing the device without following the procedures outlined in the CrPC. The court further expressed its disapproval of the alleged harassment of the journalist and his family members. The petitioner argued that the search conducted at his home was unauthorized, as no prior notice or warrant was provided, and he maintained that he was not involved in the case under the SC/ST Act and had no incriminating evidence against him.
Journalist Seeks Protection and Legal Action Against Police, YouTube News Channel Faces Intensified Investigation
The journalist requested the court to prohibit the police from harassing him, searching his home, or summoning him to the police station, and he also sought legal action against the police for the allegedly illegal search. The police took action against the YouTube news channel as part of an investigation into its editor following a complaint filed under the SC/ST Act by an MLA belonging to the ruling Left front.
The police intensified their actions against the online channel after the Kerala High Court rejected the editor’s anticipatory bail plea. The editor then approached the special court seeking protection from arrest, but his plea was dismissed based on the publication of a video containing derogatory comments, which was deemed sufficient evidence to invoke the alleged offences under the SC/ST Act. The editor subsequently appealed to the high court, but it upheld the sessions court’s decision and criticized the functioning style of the purported online news channel.