NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today stayed the proceedings initiated by the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly on a privilege notice against editorial management and journalists of two channels belonging to TV Today group in connection with a sting operation on Muzaffarnagar riots in September 2013.
"The proceedings against petitioners by the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly shall remain stayed," a bench of justices J S Khehar and C Nagappan said and asked Uttar Pradesh government and its legislative assembly to file their response within four weeks on the petition by the channel and its staffers.
The UP legislative assembly committee had probed the sting operation, broadcast channels, and held several staff members of TV Today group guilty of breach of privilege of Azam Khan, a member of the legislative assembly from Rampur assembly in UP.
In its report, the committee had recommended action against the staffers, as well as against police and administration officials for their alleged conduct before the team of TV journalists involved in the sting operation.
Senior advocate Soli Sorabjee, appearing for the TV Today Network's channels -- Aaj Tak and Headlines Today (now India Today) -- submitted that UP assembly had no locus standi to direct journalists to appear before it for having conducted the sting operation since it pertained to a matter outside the assembly and did not in any way impede the functioning of the House or any of its members.
Additional Advocate General of the state Gaurav Bhatia sought some time to file counter affidavit so as to enable him to place the complete picture of the controversy on the record of this case.
During the hearing, the apex court bench observed that "how can the legislative assembly set up a committee to probe into the incident outside the House. The committee even hold them guilty. This right do not vest in you."
It also said that "they cannot pass such order as they are not above the law and this incident in question is not breach of privilege".
The bench said the assembly could have lodged a criminal case with the police instead of conducting proceedings on its own under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
"This incident is not against the legislative assembly but against an individual," the bench observed.
It, however, asked UP government to file a counter affidavit "so as to enable them to place the complete picture of the controversy on the record of this case".
The court's order came on a plea filed by the journalists who all have challenged UP Legislative Committee's order which found the channel guilty of breach of privilege as it failed to provide the original raw footage and camera used in the sting operation.
The assembly on February 23 passed a resolution directing the channel management and the journalists to appear before them on March 4 to respond to a report of privileges committee of UP assembly.