Senior Samajwadi Party leader and UP cabinet minister Azam Khan Friday offered to withdraw his complaint against the TV Today Network, which had aired a sting operation on Muzaffarnagar riots purportedly blaming him on its Aaj Tak and Headlines Today (now India Today) channels.
Azam made the offer soon after Speaker Mata Prasad Pandey informed the House that the Supreme Court has stayed the proceedings against the staff members of the TV Today Network, who a seven-member Assembly panel had held guilty of breach of privilege of the minister (Azam). This came even as Pandey convened an all-party meeting to discuss the issue arising after the apex court order.
The Assembly had summoned the concerned staff members of the two channels (AajTak and Headlines Today) for personal appearance on Friday.
“The intervention of the Supreme Court in the case is unfortunate. It is better to pass a resolution withdrawing the action. It should not appear that fingers are raised on Vidhan Sabha,” Azam said.
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“The issue (sting operation) was big and the House took the decision (to initiate the proceedings against the channels) unanimously. I am ready to withdraw my complaint. If the findings had been against me then it would have been a moment for me and my family to commit suicide,” the parliamentary affairs minister, added.
Citing the JNU incident, Azam said, “A news channel aired videos and other things but now it has been cleared that everything was doctored”. Without naming JNU students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar he said, the “person involved” has been granted interim bail and his statement has been published which has been noticed by the country.
Leader of the Opposition Swami Prasad Maurya, meanwhile, termed the Supreme Court order as “an interference” in the functioning of the legislature. “In these circumstances, any move to stop the proceedings or debate is not realistic and unconstitutional. It is also breach of privilege of the House and Chair. Even Constitution has not given the right to stop proceedings of the house,” Maurya said.
He said a letter should be sent to the apex court apprising it about the “whole situation so that dignity of both the Supreme Court and the House is maintained”.
Congress’ Pradeep Mathur supported Maurya’s stand while RLD’s Dalbeer Singh said that it was possible that the apex court was kept in dark by the TV Today Network.
BJP’s Suresh Khanna, however, said the House “should first take legal advice”.
Later, the Speaker convened an all-party meeting in the evening where it was decided to seek legal opinion from experts over the developments During the meeting, the issue was discussed and it was decided to seek legal opinion from experts over the situation arising out of the Supreme Court order. Principal Secretary Pradeep Dubey informed that the all party meeting will be held again on Saturday before a final decision is taken.
Formed by the Assembly on September 24, 2013, the seven-member committee headed by SP MLA Satish Kumar Nigam had probed the authenticity of the sting operation and tabled its report in the House on February 16. The contentious programmes ? ‘Operation Danga and Operation Riot for Vote’ ? were telecast on Aaj Tak and Headlines Today, respectively, on September 17, 2013. Aaj Tak broadcast Operation Danga Part-2 the following day, the report stated. The 350-page report made seven recommendations and authorised the Assembly to take a decision on punishment of the channel staff, if found guilty under various sections of IPC and IT Act.