Observing that ‘prima facie’ the Delhi Government circular, asking officials to lodge complaints regarding defamatory reports, tends to “jeopardise” the freedom of press, the Press Council of India (PCI) has sought to know the reasons that necessitated such a move.
In a statement issued in New Delhi by its chairperson Justice (retd) Chandramauli Kumar Prasad, PCI said it had learnt from reports about the circular, issued on May 6, 2015, by the Delhi Government, which, it felt, may have a bearing on the freedom of press.
It obtained the circular issued by the Delhi Government to “deal with the instances of defamatory imputations covered under section 499/500 of the Indian Penal Code” against the Chief Minister, ministers and functionaries of the government.
The circular “gives veiled threat to the media for their prosecution under penal provisions, which may prevent them from carrying out their professional obligations honestly, diligently, independently and with freedom”, the Council
opined, and noted that while it is mandated to preserve the freedom of press, the circular tends to “jeopardise” that freedom.
Taking suo motu cognisance, the Council asked the Delhi government to furnish reasons, circumstance and necessity of issuing the circular, within a week.
Earlier, the Arvind Kejriwal led Delhi Government had asked all its officials to lodge a complaint with the Principal Secretary (Home) if they come across any news item which damages the reputation of the Chief Minister or the government, so that further action can be taken.
According to a circular issued by the Directorate of Information and Publicity Department, if any officer associated with the Delhi government feels that the published or aired news item damages his or the government’s reputation, he should file a complaint with the Principal Secretary (Home).