Press Council chairman did not implement ban on troop movement story,petition alleged
The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court has slapped a fine of Rs 1 lakh on social activist and freelance journalist Nutan Thakur for filing a frivolous petition,which accused Press Council chairman Markandey Katju and four others of committing contempt by not taking action to implement a judgment banning media reporting on movement of army troops. Katju had also criticised the judgment as not correct,the petition said.
Justice Devendra Kumar Arora,while dismissing the petition,said,The applicant has made an unsuccessful attempt to make a case out of nothing just for the sake of sensationalism.
On April 10,a high court bench of Justice Uma Nath Singh and Virendra Kumar Dixit directed the Union home secretary,the secretary of Information and Broadcasting,and principal secretary (Home) of UP to ensure that there was no reporting of any news item by the media regarding movement of troops.
The order was passed on a PIL of Thakur which contended that a report carried by The Indian Express on April 4 on unauthorised movement of two army units towards NCR on the night of December 16-17 last year,as also some other media reports,were against national interest.
In her contempt petition,Thakur said the Press Council Chairman had termed the judgment as not correct and even stated that the council would challenge it in the Supreme Court. Later,the Press Council actually moved the Supreme Court. Thakur said that the Press Council Chairman should carry out the courts directions instead of commenting on it.
She said other authorities had also not taken steps to enforce the courts judgment and submitted copies of news items published in some newspapers,including The Indian Express,and said that these violated the high courts directions.
In his judgment,Justice Arora pointed out that these news items were regarding a statement made by the Defence Minister in the Rajya Sabha about the movement of troops on the night of December 16-17,not any fresh movement. Justice Arora said the Press Council was not a party to the case in which the court imposed restrictions on reporting on movement of army troops,nor had the court given the council any directions. Besides,the Press Council was a statutory body with quasi-judicial functions.
As for the council chairman expressing an opinion on the judgment,Justice Arora said,…terming the order of the writ court as not correct is just an opinion of the chairman of the Press Council of India,who has every right of fair and healthy criticism of the judgment.
The bench said,The petition lacks bona fides and is an abuse of the process of the court. It appears that the petitioner has filed this petition just to come to the limelight and nothing else,which wasted the time of the court.